How Python Became Hackers’ Go-To Language

Aviva Zacks
Posted: September 27, 2018

The cyber landscape is constantly changing and growing. As technology advances, so does tech-based crime. Not only have the techniques developed, but they’ve also become more accessible to aspiring cybercriminals.

Python is a perfect example of that development. Unlike other scripting languages, it focuses on simplicity and shared knowledge to make programming as easy as possible. For hackers, it’s easier than ever to develop tools to invade other people’s networks and computers. 

Hacking, Scripting & Programming

Hacking and programming go hand-in-hand. Without both skills, cybercriminals are restricted in the attacks they can employ. They’re limited to using pre-made tools, created by others, which carries a much higher risk of detection. Antivirus and intrusion detection systems are now so complex that they can spot template tools easily. To bypass this protection, you need to create new techniques that can’t be recognized by writing the code.

Unfortunately, learning to program is a considerable undertaking. You’re essentially learning a new language, one based on computer logic rather than human dialogue. Estimates suggest you need at least 100 hours to get started, but it could take up to six years before you’re fluent – more if you’re teaching yourself. For aspiring hackers, this timeline is just too long.

So Python became the top choice.

What is Python?

Python is a programming language whose allure is in readability and simplicity. Its syntax is easy-to-learn compared to other options, and there’s considerable focus on modules and packages. Its benefits are well-documented; it’s often used for Rapid Application Development or to glue individual components together. However, its ease-of-use has also made it an incredibly attractive option for novice cybercriminals.

Another benefit of Python is that it stores a vast set of coding libraries, which contain premade elements that can be easily copied and pasted. With only a basic understanding, it’s possible to piece together innovative hacking tools that can bypass computer security systems. Alongside its simplicity and accessibility, Python is also free, open source, and a high-level language, meaning anyone can use it for their own gain.

Python Vs. Other Languages

From a quick glance, it’s easy to see why Python is such an attractive language for hackers. However, the benefits are even greater when compared with other programming languages.

Python Vs. Java/Javascript

Typically, Python programs are 3-5 times shorter than those made with Java. The dynamic typing element means you don’t have to specify variables. However, this means Python runs slower as it has more evaluation work to do. While Javascript works similarly, you’re restricted to using simple functions and variables. In Python, you can write large programs with ease.

Python Vs. Perl/Tlc/Smalltalk

Python and Perl both work from a Unix background. Although the methods are very similar, Python has applicability further than the original application domain, which is Perl’s niche. Tcl is another similar option, but it lacks the features necessary to build larger programs. Finally, Smalltalk is the last language that’s directly comparable to Python. It provides the same facilities but uses more complex syntax, making it harder for beginners to learn.

Python Vs. C++/Common Lisp/Scheme

Like Java, C++ programs are considerably longer than Python, a staggering 5-10 times larger, in fact. Tools that take a few days to create in Python could end up taking over a year using C++ coding. Also, while C++ excels in making standalone components, it struggles to glue them together, a job where Python excels.

Python Vs. Common Lisp/Scheme

Common Lisp and Scheme are similar to Python in dynamics but notably different in their approach. The former is significantly bigger and uses a syntax-free method. On the other hand, the latter is fragmented and often incompatible with other versions.

While Python’s simplicity is by far one of the most significant factors responsible for its popularity, another non-code-based reason exists.

The Rise in Hacking

Hacking has become a social statement. The notorious group Anonymous made headline news regularly over the last decade. Their unique brand of “hacktivism” inspired bedroom coders to use their hacking skills for social justice. The worldwide fame of this organization caused countless copycat attacks, not all of which were for the greater good.
The combination between an increase in hacking techniques and global awareness of the tactics has contributed to a sharp rise in “bedroom hackers” — novices who have decided to teach themselves. As these beginners often have no prior experience, it’s clear why Python quickly becomes their language of choice.

Python is Easy to Access and Use

Although Python is regularly used for completely legitimate reasons, it’s quickly been absorbed into cybercrime culture. As more and more criminals want a piece of the cybercrime pie, they’re switching their focus towards programming destructive tools to meet their goals.

The best way to protect against Python-based hacking tools is to invest in a comprehensive security suite. Premium privacy software goes further than looking for existing hacking methods; it also highlights any suspicious behavior that could be the result of a new cybercrime tactic. Use a high-quality antivirus to keep your system safe from all varieties of attack.

About the Author

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.