In today’s ever-changing, ever-growing world of technology, it seems every day we are hearing of a new program, a new app or a new device.
Of course, as with everything, there are also those who wish to use that new technology for malicious purposes and neither can we turn our heads without hearing about a new computer scam, a new attempt at identify theft or a new hacking tool.
We hear about ‘hackers’ and ‘hacking’ a lot in the news and usually it’s in a negative context. However, there is more to hacking than just breaking into devices with harmful intentions.
Hacking is something that people who design software, apps and electronic devices need to think about, so they also design security systems within those things to protect users from hackers.
Who do they get to test these systems? Why it’s hackers of course.
What better way to test security than to pay a professional to try and break into it? That way, developers are able to learn how their defenses perform in a real-world situation and hackers can identify weak points in the security system and how to correct them.
These hackers are referred to as ethical or ‘white hat’ hackers to use a western analogy. They are often employed by companies as ‘penetration testers’ to test security systems in this way.
There are ‘black hat’ hackers as well.
Black hat hackers are the ones we hear about on the news all the time. They are the ones who install key-logger software, create Trojans and use other devious tools to break into systems to steal personal information and money.
There is also a third group of hackers. These are ‘grey hat’ hackers. As the name suggests, grey hat hackers fall into a grey area when it comes to hacking. They may have white hat methods but black hat tendencies or vice versa.
Some grey hat hackers could perhaps be described as “freelance penetration testers.”
They might hack into a web site, software program, or app in order to test for weak-points like a white hat hacker would, but then instead of pointing the weak points and how to fi x out them to the designer, they offer to sell them to them. If the designer decides not to pay, such hackers might even offer to sell the information to the highest bidder, perhaps even black hat hackers who could use them for malignant means.
Grey hat hackers also include ‘hacktivists’, hackers who use hacking as a means to demonstrate protest.
They hack into the web site of organizations they protest against and post messages and sometimes make demands of the organization.
If those demands aren’t met, they may even threaten to do something more vicious, such as steal and leak personal information about their target online.
They are considered grey hat hackers because their methods are illegal, but they are using them for a good reason, at least in their minds.