10 Best Ethical Hacking Books for Beginners & Advanced Hackers

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is an in-demand skill. It refers to finding the weaknesses of a computer system or network and coming up with effective measures to protect the weaknesses. Here is a list of the 10 best ethical hacking books that are a must-have for every beginner and professional ethical hacker.

The digital world is growing and developing at a rapid rate. As such, it becomes important to secure data across all stages of the business process. Since we share all our personal information, bank details, and other sensitive information online, we need to secure them at all costs. Cybercriminals are finding ways to hack and steal confidential data. While they won’t stop at anything, you need to take proper measures to safeguard your data.

Thankfully, we can prevent data from getting stolen or used with the help of ethical hacking. The main aim of ethical hacking is to safeguard business and government networks from cyberattacks.

The five different types of ethical hacking include:

  • Web application hacking
  • Web server hacking
  • System hacking
  • Wireless network hacking
  • Social engineering

How to Become a Hacker?

There are various mediums for becoming a hacker. You can learn the basics of ethical hacking through online courses or offline classes.

If you wish to know how to learn hacking step by step, then we have a list of the best ethical hacking books for you.

Let’s begin!

10 Best Ethical Hacking Books For Beginners

Ethical hackers are the first line of defense against a cyber attack. They identify and rectify vulnerabilities in the system to safeguard your sensitive data from attackers.

1. Hacking: The Art of Exploitation

Hacking The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson

Author: Jon Erickson
Last Edition: 1 February 2008 (2nd Edition)
Publisher: No Starch Press
Level: Intermediate

“Hacking: The Art Of Exploitation” explores various topics, including debugging code, overflowing buffers, hijacking network communications, bypassing protections, exploiting cryptographic weaknesses, and more. This is the best ethical hacking book for beginners. It explains ethical hacking with the help of Python, C language, and Linux. So, you need to have a basic understanding of Python, C, and Linux before buying it.

The book doesn’t focus on rote learning the concepts. Instead, it tries to develop a hacking mindset. You receive a CD for Linux with the book, which will help you practice whatever you read. This book is a global bestseller with some even going as far as calling it the best book on hacking.

2. Hands-on Ethical Hacking and Network Defense

Hands-on Ethical Hacking and Network Defense

Author: Michael T. Simpson, Nicholas Antil
Last Edition: 19 October 2005
Publisher: Course Technology Inc
Level: Beginner

“Hands-on Ethical Hacking and Network Defense” is a great resource to build your foundation for ethical hacking. This book is easy to read and does not bombard the reader with the practical implementation of techniques.

The “Hands-on Ethical Hacking and Network Defense” deals with theoretical explanations of the concepts, with limited practical application. The book walks you through several key concepts like mobile security, security testing, and penetration testing techniques. Also, Linux and Backtracks Linux are discussed. The diversity of topics makes it one of the best ethical hacking books. Moroever, if you do make up your mind to get this book, make sure to get the latest edition.

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

The Web Application Hacker's Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws by [Dafydd Stuttard, Marcus Pinto]

Author: Daffyd Stuttard, Marcus Pinto
Last Edition: 13 August 2011 (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Wiley
Level: Beginner

As the name says, the book details step-by-step techniques for attacking and defending web applications. As we all know, web applications are the entry point to almost all organizations. When attackers target them, organizations lose their pertinent information and transaction history. Considering its 480 pages, the book is enormous yet beginner-friendly. So, anyone with any beginner to intermediate level of knowledge can make the most of this book.

The second edition of “The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook” is available. You are better off buying the latest edition, as it introduces several new concepts that were missing in the previous edition.

4. The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing

The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing

Author: Patrick Engebretson
Last Edition: 12 September 2013 (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Syngress
Level: Beginner

“The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing” is one of the best books for learning penetration testing from scratch. In a step-by-step manner, it details all the tools required to complete penetration testing. The examples and exercises at the end of each chapter would help you learn how to interpret results.

More importantly, you get insights into a variety of tools, including BackTrack and Kali Linux, Nmap, Social-Engineer Toolkit, Netcat, and many more.

5. Black Hat Python

Black Hat PythonAuthor: Justin Seitz
Last Edition: 30 December 2014 (1st Edition)
Publisher: O′Reilly
Level: Beginner

“Black Hat Python” explores the darker side of Python. As a side note, this book is a successor to Gray Hat Hacking by the same author. To extract the most out of this book, you require a basic knowledge of Python. Moreover, the concepts discussed include manipulating packets, writing network sniffers, infecting virtual machines, creating stealthy Trojans, and more.

The book focuses on how to write practical hacking tools using Python 2. You will also learn how to create a Trojan command using GitHub. The best part is that the author uses an easy-to-understand approach to hacking.

On the downside, the book is a bit outdated. Several Kali Linux and Python updates have come out since the book was written. However, the book still is a valuable resource for beginners.

6. Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing

Author: Georgia Weidman
Last Edition: 14 June 2014 (1st edition)
Publisher: No Starch Press
Level: Intermediate to expert

The book is all about pen-testing. If you’re looking to make a career as a pentester, this book is a must-read. It introduces the reader to the core skills required to be a successful pen tester. The book carries invaluable information on multiple relevant topics. This includes cracking passwords, testing web applications for vulnerabilities, automating social engineering attacks, and bypassing antivirus software.

“Penetration Testing” by Georgia Weidman sheds some light on how to use tools like Metasploit, Nessus, Maltego, Aircrack-ng, and many more. The hands-on approach employed by the author is also admirable. While some of the concepts in the book might feel a bit outdated, this book is still one of the best introductions to Penetration Testing. That’s why it makes it to our list of the best ethical hacking books out there.

7. The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications

The Tangled WebAuthor: Michal Zalewski
Last Edition:
 15 November 2011 (1st edition)
No Starch Press

“The Tangled Web” is a fascinating read. It walks you through basic concepts, such as how the Internet works, vulnerable data, and how hackers exploit it. It is an excellent overview of the mess that modern browser security is. The author also offers solutions to all the security issues, which makes it such a valuable resource.

Zalewski uses an informal and, at times, humorous tone, which makes it a fun read. In fact, you wouldn’t even realize you are reading something so technical. Some of the topics discussed in the book include Strict Transport Security, Content Security Policy, and Cross-Origin Resource Sharing. Security Engineering Cheat Sheets provided at the end of each chapter offer readymade solutions to some of the most likely questions.

8. Exploiting Software: How to Break Code

Exploiting Software: How to Break Code

Author: Greg Hoglund, Gary McGraw
Last Edition:
 11 March 2004 (1st edition)

“Exploiting Software” is an intermediate-level book. You must possess a basic understanding of the software to understand the content discussed in the book. The book reveals why software issues are a significant concern for cybersecurity. One of the distinguishing features of the book is its emphasis on ‘attack patterns’.

It is also an excellent reference for reverse engineering for coders with a basic understanding of reverse engineering. The focus is raising awareness on how ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ hackers think. This is similar to a police personnel learning how a criminal mind works.

9. Advanced Penetration Testing

Advanced Penetration Testing

Author: Wil Allsopp
Last Edition:
14 April 2017 (1st edition)

The book Advanced Penetration Testing helps to build a better defense against professional attacks. Beginners would find the book mostly irrelevant, as it is strictly for programmers looking to up their hacking skills. The author explains different ways to get to desired targets using various attack patterns. The book is full of code examples for better understanding.

Get ready to explore an array of scanning tools and standard library applications in C, Java, JavaScript, etc. The author also goes well beyond Kali Linux and Metasploit to provide a complex, highly realistic attack simulation.

10. Hacking the Hacker: Learn from the Experts Who Take Down Hackers

Hacking the Hacker: Learn From The Experts Who Take Down Hackers

Author: Roger A. Grimes
Last Edition:
7 July 2017 (1st edition)

Hacking the Hacker compiles the experiences of 26 of the world’s best white hat hackers, writers, and readers. As we all know, ethical hackers protect organizations from cyber threats. This book is designed as an introduction to the world of hacking, making it ideal for starters.

The book isn’t heavy on technical jargon, which makes it easy to read. Rather, it tries to intrigue the reader into the world of hacking. That’s another reason why we ranked it among the leading ethical hacking books currently on the market.

Buy the Best Ethical Hacking Book

S.No Best Ethical Hacking Books Buy Now
1 Hacking: The Art of Exploitation Details
2 Hands-on Ethical Hacking and Network Defense Details
3 The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws Details
4 The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing Details
5 Black Hat Python Details
6 Penetration Testing Details
7 The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications Details
8 Exploiting Software: How to Break Code Details
9 Advanced Penetration Testing Details
10 Hacking the Hacker: Learn From The Experts Who Take Down Hackers Details


As a field, cybersecurity is large and multi-faceted. Opportunities in this field are endless for a qualified professional. If you are looking to join this industry, finding the best ethical hacking books is advisable. This list provides some of the best books written on the subject, and you can find something useful even if you already have an intermediate knowledge of the subject.

Tell us which one is your favorite in the comment section below.

Happy Learning!

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