Google launches ‘how to hack’ course


Google has launched a new course to teach students how hackers find security vulnerabilities and exploit web applications.

Participants in Google's Web Application Exploits and Defenses codelab get to play the part of a malicious hacker, finding and exploiting security bugs.

"The codelab is built around Jarlsberg, a small yet full-featured microblogging application with lots of security bugs," explained Bruce Leban, a software engineer at Google, in an introduction to the course.

The Jarlsberg application, which lets users publish bits of text and store files, is riddled with bugs including denial of service (DoS), information disclosure and remote code execution.

Students will get to try out two forms of attacking, the first being black-box hacking'. With this, they will try and locate security bugs by experimenting with the application, manipulating input fields and URL parameters. Participants will also try to cause application errors, while monitoring HTTP requests and responses to guess server behaviour.

White-box hacking', meanwhile, allows the user to look through the Jarlsberg source code to find bugs, which can also be located using automated or manual analysis.

While Google is elucidating on how cyber criminals work, its aim is to show how software developers can protect applications and stop hackers in their tracks.

The search giant warned that participants should use what they learn to make their own applications more secure and not use their new-found knowledge to attack any applications other than their own. Even the latter should be done with proper permission from the right authorities, Google added, such as the company's security team.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at IT security firm Sophos, said that education on finding security vulnerabilities in software and how to write code more securely is "very important for firms".

He told IT PRO that this can help stop the problems at the source and prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities later on.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.