Hacker is a term used by some to mean “a clever programmer” and by others, especially those in popular media, to mean “someone who tries to break into computer systems.”An hacker can be defined as a clever programmer. A “good hack” is a clever solution to a programming problem and “hacking” is the act of doing it. Raymond lists five possible characteristics that qualify one as a hacker, which we paraphrase here:
- A person who enjoys learning details of a programmin
g language or system
- A person who enjoys actually doing the programming rather than just theorizing about it
- A person capable of appreciating someone else’s hacking
- A person who picks up programming quickly
- A person who is an expert at a particular programming language or system, as in Unix hacker”
This term has been used for someone who attempts to crack someone else’s system or otherwise uses programming or expert knowledge to act maliciously.
The term hacker is used in popular media to describe someone who attempts to break into computer systems. Typically, this kind of hacker would be a proficient programmer or engineer with sufficient technical knowledge to understand the weak points in a security system.
Hackers are using automated tools to compromise websites and plunder company databases, security researchers have found.
Types of Hackers:
A White Hat (or, more properly, a “computer security specialist” or similar) will NEVER attempt to break into a system that they do not own or do not have explicit permission from the owner to do so. That means, they will usually be hired by a system or software owner to test the security of the said system or software package. They will always report their findings to the owner of the system, though there is somewhat of an ethical responsibility to report any significant (i.e. things that would impact the public) exploits to the community-at-large, if the original owner does not seem to be willing to address the issues – e.g. in case of a cover up of the problem, a White Hat is generally ethically bound to report the problem to the proper authorities, which may include public organizations such as CERT. More concisely, a White Hat is a professional, who abides by professional ethics and performs his or her duties out in the open.
Grey Hat folks generally don’t have obvious ill intent (to contradict the previous answer). That is, they’re not looking to exploit any problems for personal gain. However, they generally follow an ethic which believes that it is OK to perform intrusion and exploit scans on systems which they DON’T own or have permission to do so. This makes it hard for a target to determine the difference between a Grey and Black Hat hacker, as the initial method of operation looks identical. That said, Grey Hat folks generally report their findings to the target – that is, they’ll inform the target as to what security issues they have found. Most Grey Hats will give the target a small window to address the issues; however, a GH will always report the issue to the wider media and security groups, and will NOT consider any information that the target wants to keep private. That is, GH folks seem to see themselves as “defenders of the public good”, and that by exposing weaknesses of systems, they will ultimately force folks to be more secure. This is a plausible, but not provably true, scenario. Grey Hat folks are hobbiests and enthusiasts, who generally don’t get paid for their work, but pursue it for personal reasons. They generally keep their identities masked (or at least don’t usually broadcast them), as much of their work is quasi-illegal.
Black Hat folks, of course, are in it for the money (one way or the other). They’re targets will never be informed of breaches, and in fact, most BH folks strive to keep their exploits secret from everyone, as it allows them to sneak in and steal information of value undetected. Black Hat folks are pure criminals.
Script Kiddies: This is a derogatory term for black hat hackers who use borrowed programs to attack networks and deface websites in an attempt to make names for themselves.
Hacktivists: Some hacker activists are motivated by politics or religion, while others may wish to expose wrongdoing, or exact revenge, or simply harass their target for their own entertainment.
State Sponsored Hackers: Governments around the globe realize that it serves their military objectives to be well positioned online. The saying used to be, “He who controls the seas controls the world,” and then it was, “He who controls the air controls the world.” Now it’s all about controlling cyberspace. State sponsored hackers have limitless time and funding to target civilians, corporations, and governments.
Spy Hackers: Corporations hire hackers to infiltrate the competition and steal trade secrets. They may hack in from the outside or gain employment in order to act as a mole. Spy hackers may use similar tactics as hacktivists, but their only agenda is to serve their client’s goals and get paid.
Cyber Terrorists: These hackers, generally motivated by religious or political beliefs, attempt to create fear and chaos by disrupting critical infrastructures. Cyber terrorists are by far the most dangerous, with a wide range of skills and goals. Cyber Terrorists ultimate motivation is to spread fear, terror and commit murder.