There is a certain romantic appeal in hacking. The idea of typing away by the light of your monitor and gaining access to secrets only a few others know appeals to many people, but real-life hacking isn’t the same as it is in the movies. In the real-world, hacking is a crime, but also an in-demand skill set

Companies pay professional (or white-hat) hackers to test their security. If this sounds like an interesting job to you, try your hand at these hacking games online to learn the necessary coding and hacking skills you’ll need to get started.

Hack the Box

Hack the Box isn’t as much a game as it is a puzzle. To even gain entry into the platform, you have to have some basic level of knowledge of web development. It requires you to hack your way into the site just to get an invite code, although it does drop multiple hints along the way to help you solve the puzzle.

Once inside, Hack the Box is a great place to connect with other penetration testers. It has more than 30 different machines you can connect to remotely and hack. If you submit proof of your hack, you can receive points and climb the leaderboards. There are also offline puzzles in the realms of steganography, cryptography, and more. 

If you fancy yourself a semi-skilled hacker and want to sharpen your skills, Hack the Box is a good place to start. 

HackThisSite

HackThisSite is a totally free website that has tests and courses on hacking. It starts with offering users missions they can work through, ranging in difficulty from bare-minimum knowledge to more advanced techniques. There are also scores of articles on the website to teach you many of the skills you need, as well as forums to discuss solutions and puzzles.

If you’re just starting out in the world of hacking, try the “basic missions” challenges. These will gradually scale up in difficulty and teach you what you need to know before moving on. There are also realistic missions that are much more complicated.

Like Hack the Box, HackThisSite has a high score system. There’s also a “Hall of Fame” section where the site lists vulnerabilities that users have found and awards those users points. HackThisSite encourages users to look for security holes, but asks that they submit a bug report rather than take destructive action.

HackThisSite is a great training ground and gathering place for would-be white hat hackers, especially if you’re just starting out learning the skills you need. 

PicoCTF

Many people think hacking is solely about coding, but there is much more involved than just knowing Java syntax. You need to be able to think creatively and know how to approach different problems a hacker might encounter. PicoCTF is aimed at younger audiences (middle-grades to high school) but can be used by anyone.

PicoCTF is designed by computer security experts at Carnegie Mellon University. Players work through a loose storyline filled with educational content and cybersecurity puzzles. According to the website, players must “reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, and think creatively and critically to solve the challenges.”

While there is hacking involved, think of PicoCTF more like a training game for your brain. When you know how to think about hacking, the actual act of breaking into the code will be much easier. There are even competitions users can take part in, provided you are within the proper age range.


PicoCTF is a great tool for someone younger that is interested in hacking. It will teach a strong foundation of basic skills that will carry someone into more advanced courses later in life. 

Hacksplaining

Hacksplaining is an interactive tutorial site that guides users step-by-step through the process of various security exploits. Its platform allows users to see what happens behind the scenes when something like SQL Injection, Clickjacking, and other types of hacking techniques are used.

While it isn’t much of a hacking game, the interactive elements help it demonstrate its lessons in a way that just reading the material does not. It’s set up in a series of courses that move naturally from one to another. For example, when you finish the SQL Injection tutorial, it moves you into a lesson on how to protect against SQL Injection. 

Many lessons are available without signing up, but you can join for free to access even more information. With the wealth of information on the site and the easy-to-approach format, Hacksplaining is a good place to get a basic understanding of security exploits. 

A Note on Hacking

Although hacking is a romanticized industry, remember that it’s a crime to access information you’re not allowed access to–and like any crime, it can carry massive penalties and jail time. White-hat hacking can be a lucrative skill set, but you’re often required to have a clean criminal record in order to gain the necessary security clearances to work in this field.

If you want to become a white-hat hacker, make sure that you don’t abuse the skills you learn. It can also benefit you to obtain various certifications, such as the Certified Ethical Hacker certification from the EC-Council or Cyber Security Certification Roadmap.