What is a Hacker

What is a Hacker

What is a Hacker? What do they do? What composes of their magical wizardry on a computer? These are all common questions people new to computers have when they first are introduced. It doesn’t take very long of being on the internet to hear about a Hacker. 2011 has almost been the year of the Hacker, between groups of people modifying and expanding on Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral, to the IPhone community and their exploits to circumvent good old Apple, and even the strange “computer-terrorist” groups like Anonymous and LulzSec. If you have truly not heard of any of these instances than I applaud you’re ability to live under a rock and miss out on history that is being made. Yes, history is made even thanks to these events. Hackers have always been the fore-frontal force that makes history in the computer world, with new innovations that they bring to current and old devices (think Iphone or Kinect) or for finding and blowing holes into seemingly indestructible computer barriers (think PS3)anyway, so what is a Hacker? Well to break down my ideas of hackers, I have to split them into three categories: Black Hat, White Hat, and the shady Grey Hat hackers.

  • Black Hat Hackers: Meet your ‘evil’ hacker that everyone always thinks about when they think of the term Hacker. Black Hat hackers are the types generically associated with causing mayhem on the internet, looking for holes in software and networks that can be exploited, or creating malware (malicious software) to infect others with.
  • White Hat Hackers: Meet your security experts working for defense in the computer world. White Hat hackers, like Black Hats, look for holes in their systems that they guard but instead of exploiting, they try to patch and fix the security holes. In a very geeky analogue think of Black Hat as the “Dark Side” and White Hats as “Jedis”.
  • Grey Hat Hackers: Now here is a hacker that needs to be careful. A Grey Hat Hacker is a security expert whose actions stand on the very slim line between Black and White Hat Hacking. Such actions may be like crippling a network, in order to show and document the security vulnerabilities that network has had the whole time. The dangerous part of a Grey Hat is their intentions could be genuinely good in belief but misinterpreted as malicious and illegal.

Now while their descriptions and beliefs vary largely between each type of hacker, the tools of the trade tend to be about the same. While this article post isn’t going to go too in depth of the Tools, the basic jist of most security experts is a collection or custom built programs that will scan through program, network, or work station looking for certain known Vulnerabilities. For websites, one may run an SQL Injection (explanation later) scan looking for unfiltered forms on search, login, and other parts of websites. On a network one may just start scanning ports, looking for an open door that can be used to gain illegal access and take down the network. With these results one can either decide to fix it (White/Grey) or exploit it (Black/Grey). The tools are the same, think light-saber you nerd, both sides have them and use them.

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