“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it.”
― Stephane Nappo
Hacking generally refers to unauthorized intrusion into a computer or a network. The person engaged in hacking activities is known as a hacker. This hacker may alter system or security features to accomplish a goal that differs from the original purpose of the system.
A better description for hacking, one first need to understand about hackers. Hackers are intelligent and highly skilled computer users. In fact breaking a security system requires more intelligent and expertise than creating one. There are no hard or fast rules whereby we can categorize hackers into neat compartments. However in general computer parlance, we call them as white hat , black hat and grey hat hackers.
White hat hackers are computer security specialists who hack to check their own system to make it more hack-proof. White hat hackers are usually seen as hackers use their own skills to improve security by exposing vulnerabilities before malicious hackers (known as black hat hackers) can detect and exploit them. An organization can hire these consultants to do tests and implements best practices that make them less vulnerable to malicious hacking attempts in the future. Mostly the term is synonymous with “ethical hacker”. Mostly the term comes from old Western movies where the cliché was for the “good guys” to wear a white cowboy hat and of course “bad guys” always seemed to wear a black hat.
A black hat hackers are also computer experts who attempts to find computer security vulnerabilities and exploit them for personal financial benefits or other malicious reasons. Black hat hacker activities include planting keystroke-monitoring programs to steal data and launching attacks to disable access to websites. Some computer experts call them as crackers instead of hackers.They also sell information about the security holes to other criminals for them to use. Black hat hackers are, obviously, considered the bad guys.
Grey hat hackers (also spelled gray hat hackers) represent the middle ground between these two other hacker categories. They are someone who may violate ethical standards or principles, but without the malicious intent as black hat hackers. Grey hats sell or disclose the vulnerabilities they found not to criminals, but to governments—law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies or militaries. Grey hat hacker can help some governments that use zero days to spy on dissidents, political rivals and others. The Italian firm Hacking Team, for example, is known for selling its espionage tools and zero-days to repressive regimes. When it comes to good and bad, like black and white, there’s always a grey area.
When hacking first started it was not thought of as that serious. The hackers were not even known as hackers but as practical jokers. It all began in the 1960s at MIT, skilled individuals practiced hardcore programming in FORTRAN and other older languages. In 1969, Bell Labs employee Ken Thompson invented UNIX and permanently changed the future of the computer industry. Then in the very early 1970s, Dennis Ritchie invented the computer programming language “C” which was specifically invented to be used with UNIX. Programmers ceased to use assembler, while developing an appreciation for the portability of “C.” The first major hacking came 1971 by John Draper (Captain Crunch). He found a way to make long distance free phone calls. This was called later as “Phreaking”. In 1990s Kevin Mitnick arrested after tracked down by Tsutomu Shimomura. The trial of Kevin Mitnick were the most publicized hackers trial in history. As hackers and time progressed and hackers found new techniques to exploit operating systems of local or remote machines. All too often media figures and general public mistakes those who deface web pages, steal data or credit card number or money as hackers. You must be thinking “Well, isn’t that what hackers actually do? They gain unauthorized access to computers.” and technically you are correct.
However that’s not they all do. As I mentioned above in general computer parlance, we categorize them as white hat , black hat and grey hat hackers. Black hat hackers do what you think, they steal from people or companies. White hat hackers find and release the vulnerabilities in computer systems which, if not found, could remain secret and one day lead to the downfall of our increasingly computer dependent civilization. They come up with useful new computer systems and solutions to make life easier for all of humanity. They work in all of our major corporations, as well as in many small companies. Recently, many organizations have faced cyber-attacks leading to the growing need of having professional ethical hackers who can safeguard their networks. Due to growing cyber threat landscape and an estimated 1 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide, governments and universities started giving ethical hacking training and cyber security educations to people coming from any background who looking to make a career change. Job postings in the cybersecurity field have gone up 74% over the past five years—and US News and World Report ranked a career in information security analysis fifth on its list of best technology jobs. Average salaries nationally are $88,890, and significantly higher in cities such as San Francisco and New York.