Ethical Hacking - Footprinting

Footprinting or Information Gathering is one of the initial stages of ethical hacking or penetration testing because it allows for the gathering of information about the target system or network. It involves getting information about the target network topology , performing DNS and WHOIS queries, finding out the versions of remote operating systems and application software, and then consolidating this information to build further attacks. Before planning for the actual attack on the target network, footprinting gives a wealth of information to the attacker. It helps determine strengths and weaknesses of the target network. It gives information about the critical assets in that target network so that more emphasis can be made on exploiting those. In a way, it helps attacker visualize the security posture of the target network and then plan for the most accurate attack vectors. Without footprinting, the attacker is less likely to succeed with exploitation of the vulnerabilities in the target network.

Information gathering is commonly categorized into two forms :

1. Passive information gathering : Passive information gathering, relates to profiling a target using third party data. Only resources such as public archives are used, meaning that no direct contact is made with the target site, and therefore is essentially undetectable by the target.

2. Active information gathering : Active information gathering refers to direct contact being made with the target site. It may be anything from browsing the company website to running a detailed port scan.