Footprinting is the essential step of Hacking which is behind every big hacking attack one of the most important. And we will talk about it about passive and active footprinting.
An essential aspect of footprinting identifying the level of risk associated with the organization’s publicly-accessible information. Footprinting, the first step in ethical hacking, refers to the process of collecting information about a target network and its environment. Using footprinting, you can find a number of opportunities to penetrate and assess the target organization’s network.
After you complete the footprinting process in a methodological manner, you will obtain the blueprint of the security profile of the target organization. Here the term “blueprint” refers to the unique system profile of the target organization acquired by footprinting.
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There is no single methodology for footprinting, as information can be traced in a number of ways. However, the activity is important, as you need to gather all the crucial information about the target organization before beginning the hacking phase. For this reason, footprinting needs to be carried out in an organized manner.
Types of Footprinting
Footprinting can be categorized into Passive Footprinting and Active Footprinting.
Passive footprinting involves gathering information about the target without direct interaction. It is a type of footprinting that is mainly useful when there is a requirement that the information-gathering activities are not to be detected by the target. Performing passive footprinting is technically difficult, as active traffic is not sent to the target organization from a host or from anonymous hosts or services over the internet. We can only collect the archived and stored information about the target using search engines, social networking sites, and so on.
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Passive footprinting techniques include:
- Finding information through search engines
- Finding the Top-level Domains (TLDs) and sub-domains of a target through web services
- Collecting location information on the target through web services
- Performing people search using social networking sites and people search services
- Gathering financial information about the target through financial services
- Gathering infrastructure details of the target organization through job sites
- Monitoring target using alert services
- Gathering information using groups, forums, and blogs
- Determine the operating systems in use by the target organization
- Extracting information about the target using Internet archives
- Performing competitive intelligence
- The monitoring website traffic of the target
- Tracking the online reputation of the target
- Collecting information through social engineering on social networking sites
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Active footprinting involves gathering information about the target with direct interaction. In active footprinting, the target may recognize the ongoing information gathering process, as we overtly interact with the target network.
Active footprinting techniques include:
- Querying published name servers of the target
- Extracting metadata of publishing documents and files
- Gathering website information using web spidering and mirroring tools
- Gathering information through email tracking
- Performing whois lookup
- Extracting DNS information
- Performing traceroute analysis
- Performing social engineering
Information Obtained in Footprinting
The major objectives of footprinting include collecting the network information, system information, and the organizational information of the target. By conducting footprinting across different network levels, you can gain information such as network blocks, specific IP addresses, employee details, and so on. Such information can help attackers in gaining access to sensitive data or performing various attacks on the target network.
Network information: You can gather network information by performing Whois database analysis, trace routing, and so on.
The information collected:
- Domain and sub-domains
- Network blocks
- IP addresses of the reachable systems
- Whois record
- DNS records, and related information
System Information: You can gather system information by performing network footprinting, DNS footprinting, website footprinting, email footprinting, email footprinting, and so on.
The information collected includes:
- Web server OSes
- Location of the webserver
- Users and passwords and so on.
Organization Information: Such information about an organization is available from its website. In addition, you can query the target’s domain name against the Whois database and obtain valuable information.
The information collected includes:
- Employee details (Employee names, contact addresses, designation, and work experience)
- Address and mobile/telephone numbers
- Location details
- Background of the organization
- Web technologies
- News articles, press releases, and related documents
Attackers can access organizational information, and use such to identify key personnel and launch social engineering attacks to extract sensitive data about the entity.
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