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FIRST, WHAT IS A HACKER?

The term "hacker" can mean two different things:

Someone who is very good at computer programming, networking, or other related


computer functions and loves to share their knowledge with other people
Someone who uses their expert computer skills and knowledge to gain unauthorized
access to systems, corporations, governments, or networks.

WHAT MOST PEOPLE THINK OF WHEN THEY HEAR THE TERM "HACKER"
The word "hacker" does not bring the best of thoughts to most peoples minds. The popular
definition of a hacker is someone who intentionally breaks into systems or networks to illegally
procure information or infuse chaos into a network for the express purpose of control. Hackers
are not usually associated with doing good deeds; in fact, the term "hacker" is often synonymous
with "criminal" to the public.
Every now and then, we hear something in the news about hackers taking down sites; exploit a
multitude of programs, or threatening to wiggle their way into high-security areas where they
shouldnt belong. Security is a top priority for a handful of individuals and companies, and its
thanks to these hackers that such an emphasis may be necessary for their continuous operations.
But, if you think about it, what actually constitutes being called a hacker? Are all hackers evil
and out to get us?
Not necessarily! Despite the overused negative connotation that hackers are just doing their
magic in cyberspace to cause trouble (or, in Hollywood movies, sometimes help the hero out in a
master plan), hackers can be good. But before we can figure out what makes good hackers good,
we must see what makes bad hackers bad.

Black Hats
Bad hackers are those that, in a nutshell, do what they do with malicious intent. These are
the ones that start a DDoS on your site or steal confidential information from the CIA and
similar organizations (whenever theyre successful, anyways). Others are simply bored
for lack of a better excuse and dig their way into a site, messing up whatever they can.
Even if a hacker group is fighting for something that seems right, they often use these
malicious strategies and cause havoc. Basically, these hackers do their work across the
Internet with brute force attacks, breaking through firewalls, or via hidden nasties like
key loggers. Most of the times their activities are criminal offenses, and as such are
labeled black hats.

Grey Hats
To make things even more confusing, there are some who fall under the grey hat
category. These people usually carry good intentions (often aiming for better security),
and are willing to commit crimes to achieve their goals. Whether these people should be
supported is a decision for each person by being either pro-security or pro-law.
White Hats

So what makes some hackers good? As one might expect, hackers in general are excellent
at spotting bugs and security holes. However, hackers on the good side of the force can
do this and then tell the developers about the issues that they discovered so the
developers can fix them. This strategy has worked so well for many companies, they are
quite literally offering them paid positions to do just that. Im pretty positive that the US
government is a strong employer of good hackers so that bad hackers wont even have a
chance to find their way into the governments infrastructure. Open source projects ask
for the same help so hackers volunteer their time to find issues in the software. These
people who are more security experts rather than criminals are sometimes called white
hats.

CONCLUSION
Im quite happy that not all hackers are bad, and hopefully you can now see the difference as
well. Hacking has a large number of meanings, and many of them are still disputed by those
affected today. At least now you dont have to scowl every time you hear the mention of
hacker.
EXAMPLES OF FAMOUS HACKERS
Black Hat

Jonathan James: Infamous for hacking into the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and
stealing software code.

Adrian Lamo: Known for infiltrating several high-level organizations' networks,


including Yahoo, the New York Times, and Microsoft to exploit security flaws.

Kevin Mitnick: Convicted for multiple criminal computer crimes after evading
authorities on an extremely well-publicized chase for two and a half years. After serving
time in federal prison for his actions, Mitnick founded a cyber security firm to help
businesses and organizations keep their networks safe.

White Hat

Tim Berners-Lee: Best known for inventing the World Wide Web, HTML, and the URL
system.

Vinton Cerf: Known as the "father of the Internet", Cerf has been highly instrumental in
creating the Internet and the Web as we use it today.

Dan Kaminsky: Highly respected security expert best known for his role in uncovering
the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal.

Ken Thompson: Co-created UNIX, an operating system, and the C programming


language.

Donald Knuth: One of the most influential people in the field of computer programming
and theoretical computer science.

Larry Wall: Creator of PERL, a high level programming language that can be used for a
wide variety of tasks.