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10 Best Ethical Hacking Books

I’m a hacker, but I’m the good kind of hackers. And I’ve never been a criminal – Mikko Hypponen

We know that Ethical Hackers try to step into the shoes of a Hacker in breaching an organization’s security system (although legally) for coming up with appropriate countermeasures for mitigating probable cyber attacks and threats. This is crucial for security testing and hardening computer systems.

It is often said that the act of Ethical Hacking involves, getting into the mind of a malicious hacker and being able to foresee the hacking techniques that he could possibly employ for waging a cyber attack.

Thus, Ethical Hacking is an acquired skill as well as a learned art which entails harnessing of technical as well as non-technical skills.

So, as you take the decision to learn Ethical Hacking and make an ethical hacking career, our carefully curated list of some of the top Ethical Hacking Books will definitely be your treasured possession.

Trying to figure out how to become an Ethical Hacker Do read our blog on Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch: Know How.

In this blog, we shall look at some of the Best Ethical Hacking Books. These Books on Ethical Hacking shall cover Ethical Hacking Books for Beginners as well as for those at the advanced level.


Hacking: The Art of Exploitation

  • Author: Jon Erickson
  • Considered to be one of the best Ethical Hacking Books of the Intermediate level.
  • Offers opportunity to learn the basics of C programming from the perspective of a hacker. You can learn about skills to program computers using C and shell scripts.
  • It offers knowledge on advanced secure coding skills, along with laying emphasis on the construction and testing of exploit code.
  • Some of the other topics discussed in this book are: Programming, Networking, Stacks and Global Offsets, Cryptography and Buffer Overflows.
  • You can learn about techniques for cracking encrypted wireless traffic, mitigating brute-force attacks as well as hijacking TCP connections.
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation

The Hacker Playbook 2: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing

  • Author: Peter Kim
  • One of the classic Ethical Hacking Books for Beginners, often referred to as the Penetration Tester Guide.
  • The book is unique in the sense that it not only provides a detailed step-by-step guide to aspiring Penetration Testers with regards to setting up a lab and Kali Linux; but also offers various hacking features as well as hand-on examples and helpful suggestions.
  • Some of the important topics covered, include: Vulnerability Scanning, Password Discovery (OSINT), Social Engineering, Active Directory, Web Application Security, Password Cracking, Exploitation, Password Lists and so on.
The Hacker Playbook 2: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing

The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws

  • Author: Dafydd Stuffard and Marcus Pinto
  • Another well-known Ethical Hacking Books from the Beginner-Intermediate level.
  • The book is penned by the fathers of Burp Suite (one of the best frameworks for Web Application Testing). This in itself will give you an idea of the value that this text stands to offer. It is one of the best books on Ethical Hacking for Web Application Testing. 
  • It not only serves as a practical guide on methods for attacking and defending Web Applications. Side by side, it elaborates on topics like UI redress, new remoting frameworks, hybrid file attacks, HTML 5 and so on. 
  • Some of the important topics covered, include: Web Application Security, Mapping Applications, Backend Attack Mechanisms, Core Defense Mechanisms, Hacker’s Toolkit, Attack Automation, Application Logic, Source Code Vulnerabilities and so on.
The Web Application Hacker?s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws

Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking

  • Author: Georgia Weidman
  • Another well-know Ethical Hacking Books for Beginners which provides fundamental knowledge on Penetration Testing.
  • The book takes you on a hypothetical journey where you are able to set up virtual lab laced with Kali Linux as well as housing a number of vulnerable systems on which you will be able to conduct security assessments. 
  • The book emphasizes upon the skills required and strategies which could possibly be employed by Penetration Testers. It offers information on some of the most popular tools like Burp Suite, Wireshark, Nmap and so on. 
  • Interestingly, you shall also be introduced to the skills of hacking wireless network through brute-force, learning about Metasploit framework, ways to hack passwords, techniques of deflecting antivirus software as well as ways of taking control of a virtual machine to compromise the network. 
Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking

The RTFM: Red Team Field Manual

  • Author: Ben Clark
  • When it comes to the Best Ethical Hacking Books, this is one text which is suitable for all levels. 
  • The book serves as the galaxy of all the basic commands and concepts of Linux and Windows. 
  • It also includes tips on Python Scripts and Windows PowerShell.
  • It serves as the Red Team Reference Guide and introduces you to the nitty-gritty of computational programming.
The RTFM: Red Team Field Manual

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

  • Author: Kevin Mitnick (Well-known convicted Hacker, was labelled as Wanted by FBI)
  • The choice of this text as one of the Ethical Hacking Books is questionable by many. However, it certainly does qualify as one of the books on Ethical Hacking as it tells the real life story of hacking of a high-profile convicted professional hacker. 
  • It is the story of Kevin Mitnick who was in the wanted list of FBI for a long time, before being finally arrested in 1995, post being sought after for seven years. 
  • It is a light-hearted read and instead of delving into the technicalities of hacking, the book explores the mind of the hacker. 
  • The book is valuable in the sense that it gives you a taste of a hacker’s mindset as well as their motivations. 

(Since 2000, Kevin Mitnick earned a reputation as an Ethical Hacker. At present, he is an author, public speaker and paid security consultant. He conducts penetration testing services, offers security consultancy, as well as offers Social Engineering classes to government agencies and companies) 

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World?s Most Wanted Hacker

Gray Hat Hacking: The Ethical Hacker’s Handbook

  • Authors: Allen Harper, Ryan Linn, Stephen Sims, Michael Baucom, Huascar Tejeda, Daniel Fernandez, Moses Frost 
  • One of the prominent Books on Ethical Hacking, the text is suitable for all aspiring Ethical Hackers out there. 
  • The first part of the book introduces you to legal compliances and rules which you must be aware of as a Pen Tester. 
  • The second part of the book deals with some of the most technical aspects of hacking such as vulnerability exploitation, shellcode writing, network scanning, fingerprinting and so on. 
  • Some of the other important topics covered in the book, include, heap overflows, format string overflows and buffer overflows. It also deals with a lesser know vulnerability exposure strategy referred to as fuzzing.
  • The book introduces the reader to different methods of planning and analysis which could help one to understand, identify and predict a hacker’s tactics, skills and weapons.
Gray Hat Hacking: The Ethical Hacker?s Handbook

Advanced Penetration Testing: Hacking the World’s Most Secure Networks

  • Author: Will Allslop
  • One of the premium Ethical Hacking Books for the advanced level.
  • First and foremost, as the name of the book suggests, the text provides an elucidation of hacking beyond the conventional Metasploit and Kali Linux. 
  • It has been penned by a renowned security expert, Will Allslop who has performed penetration testing and hacking for various companies across the world. 
  • The book not only gives you an idea of some of the best penetration testing tools, but also provides you with a detailed account of how they work as well as help you in writing your own tools. 
  • The book provides you with an opportunity to develop your understanding of how you can integrate programming, social engineering and vulnerability exploits. 
  • It provides highly realistic attack simulations and teaches you to infiltrate deep into networks and operating systems using pseudo credentials.
Advanced Penetration Testing: Hacking the World?s Most Secure Networks

Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking

  • Author: Christopher Hadnagy
  • This Book on Ethical Hacking serves as a complete guide on Social Engineering
  • Social Engineering in itself exists as an interesting mechanism of hacking humans to acquire access to their passwords.
  • The author believes that the involvement of humans render the idea of complete security, redundant.
  • Moreover, the book also helps its readers to develop an understanding of some of the common social engineering tricks, ways in which they can understand how social engineers can exploit emotions as well as strategies for mitigating hacking attacks.
Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking

The Hacked Playbook 3: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing

  • Author: Peter Kim
  • This book is the successor to Hacker Playbook 2 and is yet another well known Ethical Hacking Books for Beginners.
  • Being the third iteration in the Playbook series, this book offers the latest tips on Penetration Testing. 
  • The author takes its readers on a detailed journey which covers all the stages of Pen Testing: Recon, Network Compromise, Web Application Exploitation, Social Engineering, Physical Attacks, Avoiding IDS and AV’s and Exploitation. 
  • This book has been critically recommended in terms of boosting your hacking competencies and attack paths. 
  • Some of the other issues covered, include: real world attack, exploitation, persistence, custom malware and so on.
The Hacked Playbook 3: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing


The list of Ethical Hacking Books provided in this blog, is by no means exhaustive. There are several other texts on the topic available. However, we have definitely tried to cover some of the Best Ethical Hacking Books which could come in handy at the beginner to advanced level. These books on Ethical Hacking not only introduce you to the fundamentals of legal hacking but also help you to creatively apply your mind in anticipating possible attacks, in unraveling the mind of both criminal and ethical hackers as well as decoding social engineering exploits.

The profession of an Ethical Hacker has evolved as one of the highly sought after designations within the realm of Cyber Security. Moreover, the spiralling incidence of Cyber attacks, have only helped to increase their importance.

Seeking to establish yourself as an Ethical Hacker; you can begin with a fundamental Cyber Security course too. Check out the top notched cyber training provided at Syntax Technologies.

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