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Hacker Definitions
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VirusZero Offline

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Hacker Definitions

In the media there is a lot of confusion and misuse of the term hacker. Often times hacker is used for a general catch all of everything when it comes to security issues. Even here there is a lot of misunderstanding what a hacker is and what they do. So here is a basic guide on what hackers are and are not.

Hackers are those people who are skilled at bypassing security measures placed on computers or computer programs. However this does not mean that all hackers are in this for the same reason or even are very good at code. There are multiple ways to hack... One of which does not even require being near a computer!

Types of Hackers

White Hat - These hackers are typically employed by companies (like Microsoft or Google) for the sole purpose of testing their products security and finding loopholes to patch before others can. They play a vital role in ensuring modern computing via internet is done safely and securely.

Black Hat - These people are the ones who break into sites for fun/challenge, profit or to cause chaos. These are the hackers that give the entire hacking culture a bad name. These are the type of people that write viruses, trojans, keyloggers and other malicious programs.

Grey Hat - These people aren't necessarily malicious like black hat, but they do enjoy breaking through security. Often times when they break through they will send a message to their victim and let them know what they've done so that exploit can be fixed.

Hactivists - These hackers are somewhere between grey and black in that that often serve a purpose. They tend to use tactics that cause problems for their target rather than completely shut them down. They also aren't out for money or fame, they have a goal in mind and will pursue that goal even if it means breaking a few laws.
Anonymous is a good example of a Hacktivist group.

Types of Hacking

Exploits - This method requires that the hacker be versed in computer code and knows how to find then use any openings in the code to gain control. This type of hacking is what the media commonly shows in movies and likes to talk about on TV. There are many individual forms of exploits and methods to deploy them... Like using SQL injections to put extra code into a database to gain control (EX- designating a new root level admin).

Social Engineering - this method of hacking actually does not require a computer. Merely that the hacker convinces another person to give them access. (This is typically only performed by the bad guys...) One common trick is to drop names of higher employees level to make the victim think they'll get into trouble if they don't hand over access. Or they may pose as law enforcement on a routine case and need access.

Phishing - This method requires the hacker create an identical copy of the website they want to break into then email their victim and try to get them to login so they can capture their target's password. This is easily bypassed by never clicking links from emails who's source you don't trust, by knowing that most places will never ask or tell you to login to their site via a specific link.

Password cracking - This method uses either guesswork (the hacker sitting down and guessing a user's password based on data they have about that user) or bruteforce (systematically trying every possible combination until they reach the correct one) to gain access to accounts.

Keylogging - This method requires that hacker plant a program on a victim's computer that captures all the keys they press then report back. Keyloggers can be configured to only look for specific lines (ex- "Enter your password") before triggering.

Trojan Horse - This method requires that hacker plant a program on their victim's computer that will allow them to take control remotely and execute code/commands. This also allows them to plant other programs (like keyloggers).

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack - While not really a method to gain access, it can be used as a diversion while other methods are employed to gain access. This is when several computers flood a server/host with requests... making so many that they can't fulfill them all. This means that legitimate users are blocked from accessing that site. This is a popular tactic for hacktivists protesting a site and people looking to mess with sites.

Others often associated with hacking

Script Kiddies - These people are not hackers at all. They actually know little to nothing about hacking themselves and merely rely on sets of existing hacker tools to do all the work for them. These people are often malicious in nature and seek mainly to cause chaos for others.

Crackers - they are a different group in that while they too specialize in breaking security, they typically work on programs rather than on networks. For example breaking Digitial Rights Management security on popular videogames is actually done by crackers.

If you're looking for more information on hacking and hackers, Wikipedia has a lot of info here detailing more on hacking.
09-12-2012 04:16 PM
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