Becoming Pro Hacker: How Long?

Here’s how long it takes to become a pro hacker:

Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, hacking can be learned in as little as a few hours.

For the most complex hacking schemes, it takes years to master the skills involved and possibly years more to build tools and execute software.

Becoming a pro hacker can take anywhere from hours to decades.

So if you want to learn all about how long it take to become a pro hacker exactly, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s get started!

Becoming Pro Hacker: How Long? (Everything to Know)

What Is Hacking?

Let’s try to all start at the same point.

If you ask different people what it means to hack, you’re going to get different answers. 

Wikipedia seems to think that hacking is exploring “methods for breaching defenses and exploiting weaknesses in a computer system or network.”

In the 90s, anyone who spent a lot of time on a computer was often called a hacker.

The definition is a little loose.

If we’re talking about pro hacking, I’m going to define it as anyone who makes money off of manipulating computer systems or networks beyond their intended designs. 

You aren’t a hacker if you work in IT and fix computers.

You also aren’t a hacker if you work on a computer using productivity software as intended.

You become a hacker when your skills or insights allow you to get around design to do something different.

Keep in mind that this can be benevolent or malicious.

It goes both ways.

Ethical hackers use their skills to help people.

Malicious hackers are often trying to steal money or data.

It all rolls into the one larger category, and I will be covering both perspectives throughout this discussion.

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Hack? (5 Skills)

With that said, if you’re going to become a pro hacker, you probably have to learn how to hack first.

What’s involved with that?

It really depends on what you’re trying to do.

Hacking is a big concept with a lot of possibilities.

So, let’s explore some of the most common hacking skills and see what’s involved in mastering them.

#1 Networking

Hacking is often about attacking systems or stealing information.

All of that requires the ability to connect to computer systems that have something worth hacking.

As such, networking knowledge and skills are integral to hacking.

Basic networking is pretty easy and can be learned in a few weeks to a few months.

Advanced networking gets a lot hard and takes a lot longer.

A good comparison would be to look at professional networking certifications. 

Cisco is the king of these certifications and offers a few different levels of certification.

These are all at a professional level, and in many cases, you would need these certificates to get any of the best networking jobs.

Even if you already have experience with IT, it usually takes one to two years to get all of the Cisco certifications.

As you can see, it’s not a small time or effort investment.

If you want to be a pro hacker, you need comparable knowledge, so expect it to take months to years of intense effort.

#2 Coding

Not all hacking requires the ability to write or manipulate code.

In fact, that probably represents a minority of hacking methods and opportunities. 

But, if you want to be a pro hacker who does work with code, then there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Common languages you would need to know in this respect include HTML, PHP, Python, SQL, and Javascript.

Low-level coding for any language can often be learned in a week or two.

As you learn more languages, adding a new one tends to be easier because a lot of concepts carry over from one language to the next.

If you want to become an expert coder, it can take up to a couple of years, and that’s not even the whole story.

The truth is that coding is a lifelong pursuit, and even professional coders and software designers are constantly learning and discovering new things that improve their trade.

So, even though there isn’t a clear time limit, if you want to be a pro hacker who writes their own code, you’re probably going to be investing one to two years just to the study of languages.

#3 Databases

Once again, this is a concept that doesn’t apply to all hacking endeavors.

Instead, database hacking is where you find the most powerful and lucrative hacking attempts and mechanisms.

Basically, there is big money in big data, and databases are integral to that.

Learning databases can take anywhere from around three months to several years.

As with any skill, it varies by person and how you go about it—to say nothing of what you’re trying to do with your database knowledge.

The important thing to understand here is that databases are among the most complicated aspects of high-level hacking.

If you want to be the very best, you’re going to have to spend some time mastering databases.

#4 Operating Systems

Ultimately, anything worth hacking probably runs on an operating system.

So, if you’re going to be a pro hacker, you probably need to know a fair bit about operating systems in order to inform your craft.

There are a number of operating systems out there, but the most prolific are Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows Server, Linux (of many varieties), and Apache.

There are plenty of other servers too.

Mostly, as a hacker, it would be smart to see which operating systems are tied to the hacking you want to do and go from there.

As for mastering operating systems, it isn’t as intensive as some of the other skills needed.

On average, you can learn a lot about any one operating system in a matter of weeks or months.

#5 Obtaining Resources

There’s a different aspect to hacking that can be hard to quantify.

Depending on what you plan to do with your hacking skills, you might need additional resources in order to succeed.

This could include software tools that help you pursue your goals.

It could come in the form of contacts who can mentor you or collaborate with you on a project.

It could be as simple as obtaining hardware that can carry out your hacks.

The point is that all of this will vary wildly according to the purpose behind the hacking.

It can take anywhere from a week to years to acquire the resources you need in this pursuit.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pro Hacker? (3 Ways)

Now you have an idea of the time investments needed to acquire the skills of a hacker, but having the skills doesn’t make you a pro.

To be a pro, you have to monetize your skills.

How long does it take to make money off of hacking?

That also depends, and the time scales are just as diverse as everything you’ve read before.

But, I’ll take you through some of the more common ways people go pro with their hacking to give you an idea.

#1 Making Any Money in Hacking

What if you’re just trying to make a little money through hacking?

Assuming we’re sticking to the ethical side of things, it doesn’t actually take a whole lot to make a little side money.

One of the easiest things is to learn how to crack operating system passwords.

You can then help people recover their systems after they forget their password and charge for the service.

It’s simple, and it takes hours at most to learn the skill for any operating system.

It’s nice and easy.

There are countless other simple hacks that you can apply to narrow use cases, and you can try to monetize them.

If your goals are small, you could conceivably learn to hack this weekend.

But, the original question was about pro hacking.

Technically, you can make money from small hacks, and that would qualify as providing a professional service.

But, the term “pro hacker” comes with a certain connotation to it, and if simple hacks for a little side change aren’t what you would consider pro hacking, then there’s more to this story.

#2 Earning Through Ethical Hacking

There is an entire field of careers tied to what is known as ethical hacking.

In general, this is the concept of using hacking skills to find problems and vulnerabilities in systems.

The goal is to spot those problems before malicious hackers can, enabling the administrators to resolve the problems and prevent real hacks before they happen.

There are freelancing ethical hacking gigs as well as full-time professional positions.

Some of the largest companies employ red teams that are solely dedicated to the concept of ethical hacking.

If you’re looking to make a living in this vein of hacking, then there is a lot to learn. 

There are entire curricula designed for teaching ethical hacking, and they take anywhere from 18 months to 6 years.

There are also hacking boot camps that can try to get you qualified for this type of work in considerably less time.

Those are your realistic time frames for professional ethical hacking.

It will take at least a few months and could easily be a commitment of more than five years.

#3 Unethical Options

Of course, hacking is about more than helping your grandmother reset her password or finding a security exploit before it leads to a major data breach.

The term is largely synonymous with nefarious activity, and it’s only fair to address that side of things.

For obvious reasons, I’m not here to encourage unethical hacking or help anyone pursue it as a career or anything else.

Unethical hacking is often illegal, so I heavily discourage anyone from going down that road.

Instead, I’m going to answer the original question from the perspective of how hard it is to break into malicious hacking.

Are there tons of hackers around every corner, or is this stuff hard to get into?

Ransomware

One of the most common forms of malicious hacking shows up in the form of ransomware.

This is where malicious software is used to encrypt data (usually targeting a business).

The data can’t be accessed unless the hacker chooses to decrypt the data, and the typical process involves paying a ransom to the hacker in order to get the data back.

This is definitely an illegal process.

So, how hard is it to perform a ransomware attack?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy. You don’t really have to be a pro hacker to do this.

You can purchase or otherwise acquire fairly powerful ransomware from the dark web (results will vary).

With virtually no hacking skills at all, you can send the software out in a mass email, and if anyone downloads it, the attack is successful.

From there, it’s a matter of having a secure means of accepting funds from the hacked company.

As you can see, this is a pretty large, lucrative “industry” that requires no more skill than maintaining an email account.

Phishing

Phishing is another common attack (often considered a form of social engineering).

Basically, you’re trying to trick people into giving you their important information.

It could be account names and passwords. It could even be banking information.

Again, this is illegal, and I do not encourage this behavior.

But, for those who do try it, phishing is also frustratingly easy.

You can trick people into giving up account information without any hacking skills at all. It’s just about clever conversation.

As an example, have you ever answered one of those social media questions about who your favorite teacher was as a kid? Guess what.

That’s a common security question, and you might be halfway towards being hacked already.

It’s also possible to apply more hacking skills to phishing.

You can send out an email with a link in it that steals passwords and account names.

That’s a little more technically advanced, but it’s still possible to acquire those tools without building them from scratch.

Ultimately, this is another form of pro hacking that doesn’t require deep knowledge of computers or computer systems.

Crypto Theft

Crypto theft is getting a little deeper.

It’s still possible to perform crypto theft with phishing techniques, but it’s also possible to use more brute force in these attacks.

A lot of people store crypto on their personal computers, and on average, that storage is a lot less secure than professionally maintained crypto wallets.

So, a lot of hackers brute force attack personal crypto wallets to steal the digital coins. When they do, there’s no real recourse. The money belongs to the hacker.

These types of attacks range in sophistication, but it’s going to take more than a weekend to build up a good crypto theft strategy (in most cases).

You could consider this a pro hacking method that requires months to years to master, and that to say nothing of learning how to avoid detection.

Malicious Design

This might be what you had in mind when you first clicked on the post.

The most elite malicious hackers are the ones who make the tools used by many others.

After all, someone has to write the ransomware software.

We’re now discussing that level of hacking.

In order to do it, there are a lot of possibilities, and none of them are easy.

You can expect it to take months to years to design any type of sophisticated attack by yourself.

Potentially, hackers can find each other and work in groups.

That goes back to the idea of gathering resources.

But, if you’re on your own, it’s going to probably take a few years to learn enough about software design to develop these skills.

From there it can take years longer to fully design, test, and deploy your own, custom malicious software.

It’s a pretty big endeavor.