A hacker is someone with skills in designing and editing computer software or hardware. Hackers modify electronics for extra functionality and/or performance.
Categories of Hackers
This is the type of hacker (or cracker) most people think of when hacking is mentioned. A black-hat hacker is a term for someone who compromises the security of a computer system without authorized permission, usually intending the system harm. Hackers can use their knowledge of exploits and software vulnerabilities for their personal gain and disregard for the law. Hackers may use their skills in computer crimes to break copy prevention devices in software or cause other malicious damage such as breaking into secure systems via DDoS attacks or releasing internet worms.
Infamous Black-Hat Hackers
- Mark Zbikowski - Known as one of the earliest crackers by exploiting the security of Wayne State University's mainframe for his amusement.
- Vladimir Levin - Allegedy tricked Citibank's computers into spitting out $10 million.
- Johnathan James - aka c0mrade, made unauthorized copies of software that controlled the International Space Station's life sustaining elements. Also intercepted thousands of electronic messages from the DoD relating to U.S. nuclear activities.
A hacker who sometimes acts legally, sometimes in good will and sometimes not. Usually they do not hack for personal gain or with malicious intent, but sometimes commit crimes during their exploits.
Ethical hackers who work to secure IT systems. Often white-hats hired by corporations and companies to locate and detect any weaknesses in their IT security. White-hat hackers observe the hacker ethic (aka hacktivism):
- the belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing free software and facilitating access to information and computing resources wherever possible; and/or
- the belief that system cracking for fun and exploration is ethically acceptable as long as the hacker commits no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.