What is a Hacker?


While the term “Hacker” is usually used with negative connotations, it’s actually a neutral term that refers to someone who is a skilled computer expert that uses their knowledge to overcome problems. However, in the news the word Hacker is usually used synonymously with the term “Black Hat Hacker” which is someone that uses their technical knowledge to break into computer systems without the owner’s consent.

Types of Hackers:

White Hat Hacker- This a computer security specialist who breaks into computer systems and networks with the owner’s consent, with the purpose of testing and accessing their security. White Hat Hackers are also known as “Pen Testers” and this is a credible career path within Information Security. White Hat Hackers aim to identity, expose and fix vulnerabilities before malicious hackers (black hat hackers) can exploit them and cause damage.

Black Hat Hacker- This a computer security specialist who has extensive computer knowledge and uses it to break into computer systems or networks without the owner’s consent, their goal is usually to get some type of financial gain (ransomware), gain information or do infrastructure damage for cyberwarfare or just to cause problems for a person or company they do not like (Sony).

Grey Hat Hacker- This is an individual who is highly skilled with computers and may or may not violate ethical standards. Gray hat hackers are a middle ground between black and white hat hackers who do break into computer systems, but without the intent to act maliciously like a Black Hat Hacker would.

Nation State Hacker (State Sponsored): These hackers are hired by one government to hack another government, usually to gain information or affect them economically. This group tends to have one of the highest levels of skill because of the complexity of the systems that they are expected to break into.

Hacktivist- This is a hacker that breaks into a computer system with a politically or socially motivated purpose. They disrupt services to bring attention to their cause and will rarely ever target the everyday civilian.

Insiders- Insiders are people who work within your organization that may do you harm. Insiders can be angry employees, whistleblowers or contractors. Usually driven by payback, they act to right a wrong that the organization has done to them or their clients. Edward Snowden is a very popular example of an insider.

Script Kiddies: These individuals are the lowest level of hackers; they don’t have very high technical expertise and rely on using pre written hacking tools to perform attacks. Due to their inability to customize or create malware tools of their own they can be defended against fairly easily by keeping up to date with patching and standard Information Security Best Practices.

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