Hacking has been around since the conception of computers and networks. Hacking has not always been about breaking in to computer networks and stealing information. The true definition of a hacker is all about modifying or altering hardware or software in to something that works better or the way that you want it. Only recently has hacking been getting a bad rap because of the media due to criminals using computers to steal and misuse personal information. The criminals use tactics such as social engineering or computer programs to crack people and networks.
There are many programs one can easily download to make even the novice attacker cause a lot of damage. These programs can be written very easily by good guys for demonstration purposes. Not only are there bad hackers but there are good hackers and even in between hackers that are both good and bad. Hackers have been a major part of our history in both good and bad variations and that does not seem to slow down, the public needs to be educated in the history of hacking and why they tend to do it. Computer hacking has this mysterious aura surrounding it and its very confusing that each media outlet and writer has a different definition of what a hacker is and what a hacker does.
The history of hacking dates more than a hundred years ago. The first case of hacking occurred at the Bell Telephone Company, teenagers were using the phone switch to eavesdrop on callers and disconnecting conversations (Clark, Clawson & Cordell, para. 1, 2003). The first case to actually use a computer for hacking occurred in the 1960’s then it went back to hacking the phone systems in the 1970’s. Back in the 1960’s, 70’s an early 80’s, the phone systems were the most commonly attacked because they were easily accessed and had very simple or no security to protect them. The term for these phone system attackers were coined “phreakers” (Clark, Clawson & Cordell, para. 3, 2003). Since the mass release of the computer to the public and the subsequent update of the telephone system, phreakers have relinquished their share to today’s computer attackers. No one thought the computers would be used maliciously so security was an afterthought.
Computer hacking exploded on the scene due to these lax security concerns. Hackers wanted to modify the software and hardware to better suit these needs, in turn this led to hackers discovering holes in other user’s computers and allowed them to log in and steal their information. It was said that “As the sophistication of computer hackers developed, they began to come onto the radar of law enforcement” (Ward, 2011). This situation that started back then is still going on today, albeit a little differently. The computers are updated to be more secure and then hackers find a way to compromise the security for a period of time until it’s updated again and then the cycle is repeated.
A hacker’s tool set is as profound as his skill set. His skills are developed to encounter any computer related task need just as his tools are acquired to attack every part of a system that could have a security hole. It’s very easy for someone to use tools to gather information as stated here “When people find out how trivial and easy it is to see and even modify what you do online, they are shocked” (Murphy , 2011) A hacker’s tools set can be broken down in to three categories, attacking tools, defensive tools, and reconnaissance tools. Attacking tools are the money makers of the hacker’s arsenal, they allow them to steal the information or bring the networks down.
Attacking tools can read information being sent over the internet such as credit card data or social security numbers; this can even be done over the airwaves on Wi-Fi. Attacker tools can be found very easily online and are often free to download (Murphy, 2011). Once an attacker has found and stolen what they were looking for, they need to cover their tracks so they cannot be found. This is where defensive tools come in to play; certain defensive tools allow the hacker to wipe the device of the access control table so that the attacker cannot be traced back to their location.
Defensive tools can also mask the attackers locations, making them appear to be in one part of the world but in reality be in another part entirely. Recon tools are the bread and butter of the attacker’s repertoire, without them the attacker may not be able to get done what they need to get done. Recon tools allow the attacker to scout a network to see what he is working with. Recon tools can give the attacker a look at what types of ports are open on the network or what the security on the network looks like.
Since computer hacking was started hackers have been classified in 3 categories, White hat, Grey Hat, and Black Hat hackers. White Hat hackers are the good guys of the hacker groups; they help companies secure the networks. In order for White Hat hackers to help the companies they have to hack in to the companies to help them secure the networks, this process is called penetration testing. In penetration testing the hacker is contracted by the company to break into its own networks to find any security holes that can be closed and fixed so the bad guys cannot exploit them. Black Hat hackers are on the other side of the spectrum from White Hat hackers. There are many White Hat hackers out there that represent some of the top talent in the industry ( Parker, 2011). Black Hat hackers are in it for the destruction and money. Black Hat hackers attack networks to steal information such credit card data or company trade secrets. Black Hats have been labeled as having no personal ethics standing in their way (Parker, 2011)Most Black Hat hackers attack targets outside of their country of residence due to the extremely low chance of getting caught. Another term called Script kiddies can be included in Black Hats. Script Kiddies are novice Black Hat hackers that do not know much about hacking but use programs created by higher level hackers to do their damage. Some people say that script kiddies are worse because they cause more damage due to their lack of knowledge. Grey Hay hackers are the middle ground, the hack just for the challenge and not to steal information or cause any damage. Grey hat hackers are like anyone else and are not malicious but they can justify what they do with their own brand of ethics (Parker, 2011) Grey Hats just want to hack to learn or to see if they can do it, they do not want to get involved in stealing information.
Whether one is a Black, Grey or White hat hacker, they still excel in breaking in to networks. The only difference is the tools that they use and how they plan to use them. Hacking had its start many decades ago when the first computer rolled of the assembly line. Hackers wanted to find out what makes the computer work or function. They did this to see how they can improve upon the design or simply fix something that was broken. Over time these skills evolved for some people in to stealing others information such as credit card or personal information. Others decided to use these skills to help companies plug their own security holes to prevent vital information falling into the wrong hands. The evolutions are never going to stop, the good guys find ways to stop the bad guys and then the bad guys find ways to outsmart the good guys. This cycle will never change and will always keep repeating itself.
Clark, Zuley, James Clawson, and Maria Cordell. "A Breif History of Hacking..." N.p., Nov. 2003. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. http://steel.lcc.gatech.edu/~mcordell/lcc6316/Hacker%20Group%20Project%20FINAL.pdf
Ward, Mark. "A Brief History of Hacking." BBC News. BBC, 06 Sept. 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
Murphy, Kate. "New Hacking Tools Pose Bigger Threats to Wi-Fi Users." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
Parker, Don. "The Different Shades of Hackers." WindowSecuritycom RSS. N.p., 29 Dec. 2005. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.
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