The word evokes an imagery of a hooded, shady figure sitting on a computer, furiously tapping the keys on the keyboard in an effort to bring an entire organisation down to its knees.
Now, a few things to be understood right off the bat:
1. ‘Hackers’ as a word died in the past century. If you’re still using it, time for a much-needed update.
2. People who can be referred to as ‘Hackers’ are not the ones described above.
So, now having made myself clear, we can move on to properly defining this misunderstood lot.
A person who circumvents security and breaks into a network, computer, file, etc., usually with malicious intent.
So, the person passes through network security as if they weren’t even there and messes with things, no surprise. Keyword that is used above is ‘usually’. You remove that word from this definition, and you have just defined ‘Crackers.’
Or wait, let’s approach the classification through an easier analogy, Hats.
Black Hat Hackers
Black Hat Hackers are the ones most of us know of. They break into companies, steal data, and disappear without a trace (at least try to). Or they can do what is called in technical terms, a ‘DDoS’, basically flooding the server with so many requests that the server says ‘That’s enough, I quit!’ and goes down, usually only for short periods (It takes tons of computational power to do this).
These guys are the prime targets of cyber crime cells. They’re an underground mafia of sorts, maintaining secret databases of each one’s bragging rights.
White Hat Hackers
These guys are the misunderstood lot. So terribly at points, that most people don’t even know just how much they earn by legit methods!
Most White Hat Hackers prefer the term ‘Penetration Tester’, and for good reason. At the core, both White Hats and Black Hats do the same thing, but the difference is the intent. White Hats are recruited by firms to test their network defenses, and if a loophole exists, the White Hat will leave a trace on the systems that he was there, to prove his point, and offers his opinion on how to close the hole.
White Hats are usually more formidable that Black Hats, since most large IT firms(read: Google) face up to a 1000 attacks each day and never face a second’s downtime, thanks to their penetration testers who keep all the loopholes plugged tightly.
Grey Hat Hackers
Grey Hats are on the fence here, nothing special other than the fact that they have no moral compass and only money is the guidance whether a loophole they discover ends up in the company’s hands on whose platform it was discovered, or on a shady underground guy’s, who has intention is to destroy that organisation and gain control over its networks.
This is the easiest classification of Hackers which I can devise. The differences essentially end at their moral inclinations, since everyone uses the same tool, the Swiss Army Knife of Hacking.
Tools of the Trade (seemed imperative, didn’t it?)
Like all professions, Hacking has specific tools which are common across all, regardless of the hats they don.
The ultimate penetration testing Linux distribution (Whew! That’s a mouthful!), is undoubtedly Kali Linux, formerly BackTrack. This Linux distro packs in about, let’s say 95, yes, 95% of the tools you will EVER need on your pentesting extravaganzas. What’s more, Kali is completely open-source, and is built and maintained by the best penetration testing organisation on the planet, Offensive Security.
It is a good computer; trust me when I mention that! Good here means a supercomputer that can sit on your desk. Get any piece of hardware as powerful, as fast as you can, and you may just cut short that brute force attempt from 9800 billion years to about 97.99999999 billion years! (More on this at a later date, remind me!)
And of course, creativity! Pentesting is an art that gets unconventional at times, and you must adapt to it as such.
Well, this is getting too technical, so I think I’ll rest my case here. Hope you guys understand a bit more about ‘Hackers’ now!