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Hack World

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2017)

Hackers

In the computer security context, a hacker is someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system or computer network. Hackers may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, protest, challenge, enjoyment, or to evaluate those weaknesses to assist in removing them. The subculture that has evolved around hackers is often referred to as the computer underground.

There is a longstanding controversy about the term’s true meaning. In this controversy, the term hacker is reclaimed by computer programmers who argue that it refers simply to someone with an advanced understanding of computers and computer networks, and that cracker is the more appropriate term for those who break into computers, whether computer criminal (black hats) or computer security expert (white hats) – but a recent article concluded that: “…the black-hat meaning still prevails among the general public”.

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Classifications

Several subgroups of the computer underground with different attitudes use different terms to demarcate themselves from each other, or try to exclude some specific group with whom they do not agree.

Eric S. Raymond, author of The New Hacker’s Dictionary, advocates that members of the computer underground should be called crackers. Yet, those people see themselves as hackers and even try to include the views of Raymond in what they see as a wider hacker culture, a view that Raymond has harshly rejected. Instead of a hacker/cracker dichotomy, they emphasize a spectrum of different categories, such as white hat, grey hat, black hat and script kiddie. In contrast to Raymond, they usually reserve the term cracker for more malicious activity.

According to Ralph D. Clifford, a cracker or cracking is to “gain unauthorized access to a computer in order to commit another crime such as destroying information contained in that system”. These subgroups may also be defined by the legal status of their activities.

White hat

A white hat hacker breaks security for non-malicious reasons, either to test their own security system, perform penetration tests or vulnerability assessments for a client – or while working for a security company which makes security software. The term is generally synonymous with ethical hacker, and the EC-Council, among others, have developed certifications, courseware, classes, and online training covering the diverse arena of ethical hacking.

Black hat

A “black hat” hacker is a hacker who “violates computer security for little reason beyond maliciousness or for personal gain” (Moore, 2005). The term was coined by Richard Stallman, to contrast the maliciousness of a criminal hacker versus the spirit of playfulness and exploration of hacker culture, or the ethos of the white hat hacker who performs hacking duties to identify places to repair. Black hat hackers form the stereotypical, illegal hacking groups often portrayed in popular culture, and are “the epitome of all that the public fears in a computer criminal”.

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Grey hat

A grey hat hacker lies between a black hat and a white hat hacker. A grey hat hacker may surf the Internet and hack into a computer system for the sole purpose of notifying the administrator that their system has a security defect, for example. They may then offer to correct the defect for a fee. Grey hat hackers sometimes find the defect of a system and publish the facts to the world instead of a group of people. Even though grey hat hackers may not necessarily perform hacking for their personal gain, unauthorized access to a system can be considered illegal and unethical.

Elite hacker

A social status among hackers, elite is used to describe the most skilled. Newly discovered exploits circulate among these hackers. Elite groups such as Masters of Deception conferred a kind of credibility on their members.

Script kiddie

A script kiddie (also known as a skid or skiddie) is an unskilled hacker who breaks into computer systems by using automated tools written by others (usually by other black hat hackers), hence the term script (i.e. a prearranged plan or set of activities) kiddie (i.e. kid, child—an individual lacking knowledge and experience, immature), usually with little understanding of the underlying concept.

Neophyte

A neophyte (“newbie”, or “noob”) is someone who is new to hacking or phreaking and has almost no knowledge or experience of the workings of technology and hacking.

Blue hat

A blue hat hacker is someone outside computer security consulting firms who is used to bug-test a system prior to its launch, looking for exploits so they can be closed. Microsoft also uses the term BlueHat to represent a series of security briefing events.

Hacktivist

A hacktivist is a hacker who utilizes technology to publicize a social, ideological, religious or political message.

Hacktivism can be divided into two main groups:

Cyberterrorism — Activities involving website defacement or denial-of-service attacks; and,

Freedom of information — Making information that is not public, or is public in non-machine-readable formats, accessible to the public.

Nation state

Intelligence agencies and cyberwarfare operatives of nation states.

Organized criminal gangs

Groups of hackers that carry out organized criminal activities for profit.

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