Phases of Ethical Hacking

Published by Paresh Pawar
on December 8, 2018

Knowing the processes is very critical and impacts the lifecycle of your job/task. In Ethical Hacking there are some phases that you need to go through in order to complete your penetration test or the security audit.  In this article, I'm going to explain about each phase or each part of the complete process which you can and perhaps you have to follow in order to complete a penetration test like a professional.  Let's see the phases one by one as follows:


This is the first step of Hacking. This phase also called as Information Gathering Phase or Footprinting. In this initial stage where you gather as much as possible information about the target and the things related to target which mainly includes the information about Network, Hosts and the People involved.

Information Gathering or Footprinting can be categorized into two types:

  • Active Information Gathering

In this type of footprinting a Hacker directly interacts with the target network, hosts or even the people related to the target. for example, using Nmap to scan a target network or hosts. or Interacting with People through social networks or in person to gather information about them.

  • Passive Information Gathering

In this method of information gathering attacker don't actually directly interact with target Instead the attacker gathers most of the data from social media,  Search engines, Public Record etc. for example,


Scanning is the phase after you gather basic information about the target. you can do three type scans as follows:

  • Network Mapping:

This kind of scans involves finding the topology of the network, routers, potential firewalls, IDS, hosts information like how many hosts are live. Using all the information you gathered about the target network you can create a map and that map could be very important info to your penetration test.

  • Port Scanning:

This involves scanning the target hosts, open ports on a particular system and services that are running on that port.

  • Vulnerability Scanning: We scan the target for identified vulnerabilities which can be exploited. In this stage, the attacker mostly uses the automated tools. Eg. Nessus

Gaining Access

This is the phase in which the attacker has to break into the system. The attacker might use various tools and techniques to get the entry in the system. After gaining access to the system the attackers have to increase their privileges or the access rights in the system in order to install additions things like RAT or a Backdoor and even to copy data in some cases.

Maintaining Access

Most of the time hackers don't just hack systems to show that they are vulnerable but even to check how they can maintain access or the persistent connection with the target without getting insight with the user or the system administrator. This goal can be achieved by using Trojans, Rootkits or other types of malicious file or tools. The main objective in this phase is to maintain the access until the attacker finishes the task he/she planned to accomplish in that target.

Clearing Tracks

Leaving a lead to investigate the attack can be the biggest mistake for a hacker. There is no thief who wants to get caught. An intelligent hacker always wipes all evidence to avoid any chance of getting caught by a trace which can lead to him. This phase of clearing involves modifying system logs, deleting/corrupting logs, modifying registry values, deleting folders or files created by him and uninstalling all applications/tools installed by him.


This is the last phase of a penetration test and this the only step which makes the hacking ethical. Here the Ethical Hacker creates a compiled report about the information collected by him and his findings. This report also includes the tools used in the whole testing process, vulnerability foundings that poses threats and sorting them according to the impact on system, exploitation process and methods. in the end, hacker submits the report to his client and let them worry about fixing the vulnerabilities.

So that's all for this post, We are going to cover more interesting topics on this blog so consider following me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Share this article with your friends who might be interested in hacking and cracking because sharing is caring.

Article last updated: November 6, 2023

Category: hacking


Paresh R Pawar

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