Hacking is identifying weakness in computer systems or networks to exploit its weaknesses to gain unauthorized access. A Hacker is a person who finds and exploits the weakness in computer systems and/or networks to gain unauthorized access. Hackers are usually skilled computer programmers with knowledge of computer security. Although the term hacker predates computers and was used as early as the mid-1950s in connection with electronic hobbyists. In early 1960s most hackers were young people driven by intellectual curiosity; many of these people later have gone on to become computer security architects. However, as some hackers sought notoriety among their peers, their exploits led to clear-cut crimes. In particular, hackers began breaking into computer systems and then bragging to one another about their exploits, sharing stolen documents as trophies to prove their boasts. These exploits grew as hackers not only broke into but sometimes took control of government and corporate computer networks.
The scale of hacking crimes is among the most difficult to assess because the victims often are not aware of the Hack that has happened. Most of the recent hackers prefer not to let their presence noticeable to the victim. These hackers quietly steal the data, financial information from the victim and then erase any trace of their presence before existing. This makes it almost impossible for the victim to know the scale of hack. Some victims prefer not to report the crimes—sometimes out of embarrassment or fear of further security breaches. Same goes with Organizations. They fear that announcing the hack may damage the reputation and even face loss of business and fine. One of the largest known case of computer hacking was discovered in late March 2009. It involved government and private computers in at least 103 countries. The worldwide spy network known as GhostNet was discovered by researchers at the University of Toronto, who had been asked by representatives of the Dalai Lama to investigate the exiled Tibetan leader’s computers for possible malware.
Classification of Hackers: Hackers are classified according to the intent of their actions. The following list classifies hackers according to their intent. These different terms come from old Spaghetti Westerns, where the bad guy wears a black cowboy hat and the good guy wears a white hat.
White Hat Hackers: White Hat hackers are also known as Ethical Hackers. They never intent to harm a system, rather they try to find out weaknesses in a computer or a network system as a part of penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. Ethical hacking is not illegal and it is one of the demanding jobs available in the IT industry. There are numerous companies that hire ethical hackers for penetration testing and vulnerability assessments of the company infrastructure.
Black Hat Hackers: Black Hat hackers, also known as crackers, are those who hack in order to gain unauthorized access to a system and harm its operations or steal sensitive information. Black Hat hacking is always illegal because of its bad intent which includes stealing corporate data, violating privacy, damaging the system, blocking network communication, etc.
Grey Hat Hackers: Grey hat hackers are a blend of both black hat and white hat hackers. They act without malicious intent but for their fun, they exploit a security weakness in a computer system or network without the owner’s permission or knowledge. Their intent is to bring the weakness to the attention of the owners and getting appreciation or a little bounty from the owners.
Miscellaneous Hackers: Apart from the above well-known classes of hackers, there are few categories of hackers based on what they hack and how they do it −
Red Hat Hackers: Red hat hackers are again a blend of both black hat and white hat hackers. They are usually on the level of hacking government agencies, top-secret information hubs, and generally anything that falls under the category of sensitive information.
Blue Hat Hackers: A blue hat hacker is someone outside computer security consulting firms who is used to bug-test a system prior to its launch. They look for loopholes that can be exploited and try to close these gaps. Microsoft also uses the term BlueHat to represent a series of security briefing events.
Elite Hackers: This is a social status among hackers, which is used to describe the most skilled. Newly discovered exploits are usually circulated among these hackers.
Script Kiddie: A script kiddie is a non-expert who breaks into computer systems by using pre-packaged automated tools written by others, usually with little understanding of the underlying concept, hence the term Kiddie.
Neophyte: A neophyte, “n00b”, or “newbie” or “Green Hat Hacker” is someone who is new to hacking or phreaking and has almost no knowledge or experience of the workings of technology and hacking.
Hacktivist: A hacktivist is a hacker who utilizes technology to announce a social, ideological, religious, or political message. In general, most hacktivism involves website defacement or denial of-service attacks.