1) In the study of DNA, footprinting is the method used to identify the nucleic acid sequence that binds with proteins.
2) In computers, footprinting is the process of accumulating data regarding a specific network environment, usually for the purpose of finding ways to intrude into the environment. Footprinting can reveal system vulnerabilities and improve the ease with which they can be exploited.
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Footprinting begins by determining the location and objective of an intrusion. Once this is known, specific information about the organization is gathered using non-intrusive methods. For example, the organization's own Web page may provide a personnel directory or employee bios, which may prove useful if the hacker needs to use social engineering to reach the objective. Conducting a whois query on the Web provides the domain names and associated networks related to a specific organization.
Other information obtained may include learning the Internet technologies being used; the operating system and hardware being used; IP addresses; e-mail addresses and phone numbers; and policies and procedures.