We hear about them all the time and it conjures up a number of images, but who or what are hackers and what is their motivation?
Chances are, when you think of a hacker it is shady individual sat in the darkest corner of the room, a silhouette sat with the shades drawn around them as they plot their next victim. In reality, that would be a reasonably fair assumption, because they are anonymous figures who lurk out there in cyberspace.
They are also, more often than not, gifted IT people who have gone to the Dark Side and sadly, the Force is very strong for them. Whether just mischievous by nature or somebody with an axe to grind, hackers are the bane of businesses, corporations and governments and rarely do what they do for the greater good.
They are smart, highly intelligent and always try to stay one step ahead, with the most stringent security defences often their holy grail – their ultimate challenge. Imagine the defences in place around the Pentagon and how often they come under attack from those trying to break into top-secret documents.
They’ve almost been romanticised in popular culture – the flawed genius finding against evil – but sadly, that’s a skewed view of reality. These people can bring a company to its knees, cause huge anxiety for people on the street unable to access their own bank accounts and, potentially, could a hacker one-day breach military software and… well, it is unthinkable.
One thing is for certain, in this ever more digital world we live in, so the hackers will only grow in number and cause more mayhem to millions of people.
Yet, some use their skills for the right reasons, probing the very edges of cyberspace on missions that James T Kirk and his crew abroad Star Trek would be proud of. Many institutions turn to hackers to help develop their security and continually are employed to try and breach their defences before others manage to.
There are many types of hackers, from ‘White Hat Hackers’ who use their extensive know-how for the betterment and legal reasons. They are placing themselves as people’s champions because they will also expose data or info that is actually in the public interest and even be employed to outwit the darker forces known as Black Hat Hackers – we’ll come to them shortly.
Your average Blue Hat Hacker is more likely to vigorously test the security for software companies and highlight potentially dangerous loopholes in their security systems. They are working for the man and are paid handsomely to do so.
Which brings us to the Black Hats. This group are the scourge of the online community, often using their genius for criminal activity or maybe just hacking for their own entertainment.
They can launch harmful viruses that can affect so many innocent parties, spy or even stalk individuals. They trick and phish for their own personal gain. They are a constant threat and almost impossible to track down and, if possible, to be avoided at all costs…