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Top 10 Hacking Simulators for Learning Cybersecurity

February 21, 2022
top 10 hacking simulators for learning cybersecurity

When hackers strike, every IT and cybersecurity professional in an organization goes on red alert. This is the moment they’ve been training for—it’s time to put their education into action. But for security analysts to be competitive and successful, they must stay up-to-date with the latest types of cyberattacks and understand how hackers think and operate. One of the best ways to do this is with a hacking simulator.

A hacker simulator is important for students in this field to supplement their classroom knowledge with real-life scenarios. This way, cybersecurity specialists can benefit from firsthand experience without compromising the organization for whom they work. In this article, you’ll learn about the best hacking simulators that professionals can use to hone their skills and identify weaknesses in their company’s network.

The Role of an Information Security Analyst

First, let’s talk a little bit about the people who lead the defense against hackers. According to a recent Forbes article, cyberattacks are the #1 concern for global companies in 2022.1 It’s estimated that a hacker can successfully breach an organization’s computer network 93 percent of the time.2 To combat the rising threat, more and more companies are hiring dedicated security personnel who can protect, maintain, and defend their data.

Accordingly, the demand for cybersecurity professionals who can successfully thwart cyber attacks is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 33 percent job growth between 2020 and 2030, with an annual salary of $103,590 for those that help keep a company’s computer systems secure.3

What is a Hacking Simulator?

A hacking simulator is a software tool that cyber and IT teams use to mimic real-life situations and cyberattacks. Anticipating the actions of malicious individuals goes far beyond theoretical knowledge—you and your organization need to know how your system’s capabilities and vulnerabilities will react in real time. With a hacking simulator, you can identify potential attack vectors, design a plan to improve upon your current security practices and implement that plan to ward off possible attacks.4

The Best Hacking Simulators and Games

There are online platforms and hacking games that can help you advance your penetration testing and other cybersecurity skills, with realistic challenges that are developed from real-world situations. Using a hacking simulator helps you to understand a hacker’s mindset, test a network for possible loopholes, prevent advanced threats and ensure that a company’s data and compliance are secured.5

Depending upon your level of expertise and the type of challenge you’re looking for, there are many hacking simulation games from which to choose. Here are the top hacking simulators listed alphabetically:

1. Bandit Hacking Simulator

Designed for beginners, the Bandit wargame is a free educational tool with 34 levels, which you will ascend when you accomplish various hacking challenges. This hacking simulator teaches the basics and technical skills to those just starting, with increasing levels of difficulty as it progresses.5,6,7

2. CTF365

Discover what happens when your computer network or server is under attack without all of the consequences. This real-life cybersecurity game is not like other hacking activities, in that it’s specially designed for web developers, system administrators and security experts. As a player, you will build your own server and then defend it while you’re attacking other users’ servers. The main objectives are to enhance your skills and learn new methods for cracking the system.8,9

3. Grey Hack

If you want to gain deeper, more realistic insights into how hackers operate, Grey Hack is a great place to start. This single-player or multiplayer game has a realistic design and includes a Linux-style desktop with a command line and basic tools. Tutorials explain how the game works. You’ll download tools as you go, and the command line is used to scan for flaws, which the player then tries to exploit. 10,11,12

4. Hacker Simulator

Newly released in 2021, Hacker Simulator is designed with genuine hacker commands, such as using a Deauth Aireplay attack to crack WPA2 and WEP keys. The game’s missions are based on real-life scenarios for an authentic hacking experience.10,13

5. Hackmud

Text-based for the PC, the Hackmud multiplayer hacker simulator game has a cyberpunk theme and can be played online and offline. The offline game teaches users how to crack systems by solving a series of puzzles. Online, players write scripts to attempt to trick other game players and protect winnings. The focus of the game is primarily database management and Javascript.8,10,14

6. Hacknet

This terminal-based game for the PC, released in 2015, has a simple interface and teaches network basics. It features an immersive storyline and lets players simulate actions like network jamming and system hacking. It’s available for both Windows and Macintosh.8,10,15

7. Hack The Box

Hack The Box is an online platform where users can enhance their penetration testing and cybersecurity skills. Within the gamescape, players can share ideas and advice with other hackers in the forum. Its online realistic hacking challenges, some based on actual events, are updated regularly. Hone your skills by looking for system vulnerabilities that can be breached to earn ranks and badges.6,8,16

8. NITE Team 4

This military-themed hacking simulation game features an interface that’s not unlike the computer screen of a cybersecurity expert. It is primarily text-based, and a command-line interface is used to hack into the game’s systems. What it lacks in graphics it makes up for in a realistic hacker experience. You’ll also learn common computer terminology, which is helpful when dealing with other technology teams. In this text-based puzzle game, hackers receive information so they can execute commands to solve various mini-games. It includes a tutorial to learn how tools work, with the ability to create individual missions.5,10,17

9. PicoCTF

Built by security professionals and Carnegie Mellon University for middle school and high school students, PicoCTF hacking simulator presents various challenges through a unique storyline in which you must hack to overcome the challenge. Reverse engineering scenarios and security breaches are included. Hackers can compete on the website in annual competitions to win prizes.6,11,18

10. Uplink

In the Uplink role-playing game, you’ll assume the role of an agent who works for large corporations, hacking into competitors’ systems and networks. You might erase data, steal confidential information, sabotage a computer system, engage in money laundering or frame innocent users. You earn money for your hacking activities and can develop your skills, increase your agent ranking and upgrade your system. Projects become more complex as the game progresses.5,19

Get Real About Cybersecurity

For all the simulations and practice exercises you might complete, nothing compares to a real-life, full-scale cyber attack. And when the call comes, you want to be sure you can answer it with the utmost confidence and clarity. The best way to prepare is to focus on yourself, study up, and ask for advice from the professionals. At Yeshiva University, you can do all three—and more—under the guidance of faculty with decades of experience in industries including telecom, banking, wealth management, fintech and financial services.

Take a closer look at our curriculum to see how we ingrain simulations and training into our coursework.

  1. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from forbes.com/sites/chuckbrooks/2022/01/21/cybersecurity-in-2022--a-fresh-look-at-some-very-alarming-stats/?sh=5209b0616b61
  2. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from betanews.com/2021/12/20/cybercriminals-penetrate-93-percent-of-company-networks/
  3. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
  4. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from cyrebro.io/resource-guide/hacker-simulation-and-strategic-monitoring/
  5. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from https://www. hackwarenews .com/top-hacking-simulator-games-every-aspiring-hacker-should-play-part-1/
  6. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from radical.fm/hacking-simulators-game-for-starters/
  7. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from overthewire.org/wargames/bandit/
  8. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from cybercrip.com/hacking-simulator-games/#8-ctf365
  9. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from ctf365.com/
  10. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from cloud7.news/article/best-hacking-games/
  11. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from cybercrip.com/hacking-simulator-games/#6-grey-hack
  12. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from store.steampowered.com/app/605230/Grey_Hack/
  13. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from aircrack-ng.org/doku.php?id=deauthentication
  14. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from store.steampowered.com/app/469920/hackmud/
  15. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from store.steampowered.com/app/521840/Hacknet__Labyrinths/
  16. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from hackthebox.com/
  17. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from niteteam4.com/
  18. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from picoctf.org/
  19. Retrieved on January 24, 2022, from store.steampowered.com/app/1510/Uplink/