What is Reconnaissance/Footprinting

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

Zora Neale Hurston


Reconnaissance (also recon) is a fundamental process during the hacking steps.

Through recon, hackers will gather information about their targets. In general, 70% of the time is spent on this phase.

Key Steps

  • Gather elementary intel: what is the website? Where is the company physically? When was it founded? Who’s the C-suit?
  • Identify operating system: Windows? Linux? What web server? Which version? What’s their network architecture (router, switches, VPN etc)?
  • Perform queries: what DNS names do they have? Which company is hosting a particular resource? Which company are they partnering with?
  • Discover vulnerabilities: using the operating system and their versions, list known vulnerabilities that we can use.

Mapping the network of the target, including IP addresses, DNS name and other system found during the first step is also essential to success of our endeavor.

Target Information Profile (TIP)

Use the TIP to notate possible vulnerabilities to prioritize attacks. Start with the path of least resistance (low-hanging fruits) and keep track of the tried attacks.

Type of Reconnaissance

  • Passive: no direct contact with the target. Port scanning, control mechanisms, IDS etc.
  • Active: going to a job interview, asking questions about the employees, walking through the environment.
  • Anonymous: gathering information from sources that can’t identify you.
  • Private: (also organizational). Getting information on event calendar, email services, social media…
  • Pseudonymous: information about the company indirectly posted by an insider, such as an employee who wants to remain anonymous, a whistleblower etc.


Footprinting is an activity with the goal of providing a comprehensive picture of the company’s security posture.

It should focus on specific areas of a target and identify weakness and vulnerabilities.

It is also helpful to build a network map.

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