So, you wanna be a hacker? First, buy lots of black t-shirts and start listening to Dub Step, as one of our SOFREP readers brought up. Once you have an entire closet full of black t-shirts and you are listening to mind-numbing electronica, the real work can begin.

Obviously, there is no single path to becoming a hacker. Some of the comments readers left from Part One were absolutely correct in that you must be curious about everything, you must want to know why things work the way they do, and you must not be scared to break out of the mold and try to break things in order to figure out how they work. These are core skills or attributes of any successful hacker. An unparalleled drive to succeed and continue in the face of hours and hours of work that may eventually lead nowhere is also key.

As clarification to my first article on how to be a hacker: when I say hacker, I don’t mean a malware analyst, a software programmer, a malware author, or anything else. These are all corollary fields of interest one might say. The skills required to be proficient in these fields are indeed useful when working as a hacker, but absolutely not necessary.

Think of your career in terms of a pie chart with hundreds of slices of pie. Each of these slices represents a finite skill that may or may not be useful in the grand scheme of your career but, may play a pivotal role in honing your problem solving skills or helping you think in new and creative ways.

For simplicity’s sake, when I say hacker, I mean a network, database, web app sort of hacker, not one of the more complex and esoteric fields in the hacking world into which one may descend. A basic hacker is a person who understands how networks work at the switched and routed layers, who understands how databases are created and how database queries are structured, and a person who understands how web apps work on the front end and the back end and knows how to abuse the foregoing services.

Probably the easiest (not necessarily the best) place to start is to begin studying one of the following: fundamentals of networking, Windows Operating Systems, or Linux Operating Systems. I say the easiest because as I mentioned in Part One, and as Josh Kaufman described in his book The First Twenty Hours: How to Learn Anything, skill acquisition falls into three stages:

1. Cognitive – just trying to figure out what it is you’re trying to do, basic research, thinking about the topics and trying to deconstruct the material into byte-sized chunks. (Yes, I meant to spell it like that.)

2. Associative – continued practice of the core skills you gained in stage 1, beginning to see feedback based on small changes you make as you begin to experiment and ask why