Introduction to Hacking and Types of Hackers – Beginner’s Guide
Let’s begin our introduction to hacking by asking you a simple question. What comes to your mind when you hear about hackers and hacking? Do you imagine a geeky nerd having nothing to do all day but to send encrypted programs to innocent victims and infect their computers? Or maybe you imagine a hooded character hunched over his PC trying to gain illegal access to a network to steal data?
Whatever your idea of hackers and hacking is, the fact is that most people believe that all hackers are criminals with intent to steal information or spy on people. Although it’s true that hackers have received a bad reputation over the years, mostly because of biased media reporting, not all hackers are criminals. Inside this introduction to hacking guide, we aim to show you what hacking is, and how to distinguish the good guys from the criminals.
Introduction to Hacking
When computers emerged as the mandatory devices to successfully run businesses, process personal data, and save information, it was only a matter of time before the society became wholly dependent on them for every aspect of life.
The emergence of the Internet marked a point of no return to the relationship that humanity has with machines. We now depend on computers for almost all types of communications, shopping, business, entertainment, and mainly to stay alive. This networking of computers to facilitate communication has however exposed our personal and business information to the outside world and cybercrime.
Cybercrime is the use of computers to commit fraudulent acts that may include privacy invasion, sabotage, fraud, and disseminating confidential information among others. It has grown to become a very serious threat to people’s lives and costs many individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments around the world billions of dollars every year.
Most people committing these cybercrimes are hackers. Paradoxically, the people that the victims of this crime need to protect themselves, their data, and information infrastructure against such attacks are also hackers… except they are a different kind of hackers.
Before we can dive deep into understanding hackers, first let us understand what hacking is.
What is Hacking?
The definition of hacking is very broad. For the purpose of this introduction to hacking guide, we can define hacking as the process of finding weaknesses in computer systems and computer network systems and exploiting them to gain access to information.
We can, therefore, say that a hacker is a person who identifies and exploits weaknesses in computer systems and/or networks to access information. A hacker is typically a skilled computer programmer with knowledge of computer and network security.
Types of Hackers and Their Communities
The word hacker is usually synonymous with someone attacking a computer or computer network for malicious or selfish reasons, but that is not always the case. Now that we have established what a hacker does, we can classify them into four based on the intent of their actions (Hackers, Crackers, Phreaks, and Script Kiddies.)
Hackers – The Bright Computer Masters
Their intention is to gain detailed insight of any computer system, what is happening at the back-end of any particular program behind the screen of the computer system? Their intention is to find potential security risk and vulnerabilities in a computer system or network. They build security understanding among the people by sharing their knowledge about the appropriate security prevention that the users should take.
The types of hackers can be separated into three main categories:
- White Hat Hackers – As we mentioned at the beginning of our introduction to hacking guide, not all hackers are criminals. “White hats” is the name used for security professionals. While they frequently use the same software and methods as the black hats, they do so to foil the bad guys. That is, they use that software for ethical hacking and computer forensics.
- Ethical hacking is the practice of using security software to test and increase security (rather than to break it!)
- Computer forensics is the practice of gather information needed to recognize and convict computer criminals.
- Black Hat Hackers – Also a criminal hacker, a black hat hacker is an individual who gains unauthorized access to a computer or network system for personal gain. A black hat hacker typically accesses a system to demonstrate his prowess in hacking, to violate policy rights, steal corporate data, etc. or deny legitimate users service.
- Grey Hat Hackers – Somewhere between a white hat (ethical) and black hat (criminal) hackers lies the gray hat hacker. They use their knowledge for both legal and illegal purposes. They are white hats in public, but privately they do some black hat work. Gray hats are in the middle zone because sometimes they break that ethical code (or they define it differently).
They use their know-how and skills for illegal activities and harmful intents. These are the people who build and send malware and viruses, hack into computer systems, steal personal data, turn off networks, and fundamentally perform electronic crimes.
Black Hat Hackers Strategy: Information gathering and scanning, getting access and maintaining the access on a website, and clearing the tracks.
For example, gray hats will hack into a company’s computer system just for the wander and see what’s there. They do not harm any data, and that means they’re not committing any crime. They often apply for jobs as security experts for big corporations. They explain their earlier break-in as a computer security practice. Many really think that they’re maintaining a public help by allowing companies know that their computers are at risk.
Crackers – The Intelligent Computer Experts with Malicious Intentions
They break into applications with malicious intents, either for their individual advantage or their eager goals.
Their intent is to get illegitimate access into a computer system, cause harm, and destroy or confess classified information.To compromise the system to reject services to authentic users for bothering, harassing them or for taking revenge. They can cause financial losses and reputation damages, defamation in the society.
Phreaks – Tricky Minds who Break into Phone Networks
They use computer devices and software, and their delicate and sharp mind to hack into the phone networks.
Their intention is to find security loopholes in phone networks and to make phone calls and internet access free of cost. Be careful of spoofed call and a big amount of bill. You can also get a call from your own number.
Script Kiddies – Wannabe Hackers
The term “script kiddie” refers to an unskilled person who uses hacking tools available on the internet to penetrate a computer or network system. It can also be used to refer to a skilled hacker who chooses to use pre-written code or scripts to do the dirty work.
These are computer beginners who take advantage of the hacker software, vulnerability scanners, and tutorials available free on the Internet, but they do not have knowledge of what’s really going on behind the scenes. They are capable to cause you a headache, but are very clumsy in their actions, leaving many digital fingerprints behind. In spite of these individuals are the stereotypical hackers that you hear about in the media, they usually need minimum skills to make their attacks.
They use the accessible knowledge about well-known vulnerabilities to hack into the computer and network systems. It’s an activity done for a fun or out of curiosity.
A hacktivist is a new type of hacker who uses his skills of penetrating a computer system or computer network driven by a social, political, humanitarian, or religious agenda. Hacktivists, often in groups, typically hijack websites, social media accounts, and other platforms to send their messages.
Finishing our introduction to hacking guide, we will take a look at what cybercrime is, one biggest threat that every organization and individual on the planet faces today.
Cybercrime and Hacking
You have probably already heard of people being taken to court and jailed for committing computer crimes, increasingly being referred to as cybercrimes. All over the world, people are going to jail for creating and spreading computer viruses, bullying other people online, committing fraud, phishing, identity theft, electronic funds transfer, accessing classified information, and stealing corporate and user data.
Cybercrimes specifically refer to illegal actions committed over the internet. Some cybercrimes may also be carried out through telephone lines and mobile phones, on chat and social platforms, and on the location where the computer or network is physical.
The aim of this introduction to hacking guide was to show you the different types of hackers so that you can better understand their mentality and predict their hacking attempts.
Keep in mind that ethical hackers need the ability to think like crackers so they can effectively defend systems and be prepared for future attacks. Ethical hackers (white hat hackers) identify and fix vulnerabilities so they will not be breached in the future. If you are exploiting those vulnerabilities for pure fun or any other reason rather than the security of that system or website, then you are a cracker or black hat hacker. Black hat hackers are often intelligent people, but they are still criminals. I hope this introduction to hacking guide helped you to clear up your doubts and questions about hackers.