Sunday, 6 November 2016

Week 8: Hackers and #Only90sKidsWillRemember

Before I start my adrenaline-fueled post once again ... One question: Did you miss me?

As weeks rolled by, the class covered Internet Security which I believe is one of the most important topics to talk about with regards to the technology and the internet (I mean, come on, the WWW was founded upon created a more secure network right? Remember our first lecture/my first post? ;) Haha) 

However, what intrigued me most during the lecture was hackers. I've always wondered what it was like being a hacker, how does one learn to become one and whether it always meant being unethical. 

Before this class and thanks to unrealistic media depictions, I always thought one needed to be smart and be great at computers in order to be a hacker. The common stereotype of a hacker always seem to be (at least to me), a loner nerd in a black hoodie straining his neck as his meticulously types in code after code on his keyboard. In reality, hacking requires more than just computer programming skills and social engineering skills... or so I've learnt. From my group's phishing presentation, I've learnt that hackers actually leverage on our human psychology and weaknesses in order to exploit for their own gains and benefits. Instead of finding out techniques to enhance our own security, understanding the different types of hackers in existence is just as important me thinks... 

Firstly, what is a hacker? 

According to PCtools, "hackers" refers to anyone who enjoys understanding, modifying and exploring programmable systems, particularly computers, systems and servers where these individuals bypass security measures, usually for malicious purpose or criminal activity.

So while most hackers are known for their malicious intent, hackers should not be put into a box and stereotyped into one group as there are a few different categories for them.

White Hat Hackers

Categorised as the "good" hackers, these computer security experts specialise in penetrating systems in order to ensure that the systems are well secured. IT security professional rely on constantly evolving arsenal of technologies in order to fight off the "bad" hackers. Working for online security or web maintenance, most of their tasks involve security checks, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. In a way, you could say they're ethical hackers being as they are doing it not for malicious reasons.

Black Hat Hackers

Ah, don't they give all hackers a bad rep. With the help of the media, these hackers are depicted as actual criminals who are mainly known for specialising in breaking into networks/computers as well as creating computer viruses. Using exploitative methodologies of finding the path of least resistance, these hackers look for weaknesses in order to crack into systems with the main intent of getting monetary gains.

Script Kiddies

Not one to usually hack in order to gain information but rather make a name for themselves, these type of hackers borrow programmes, copy codes and use it for virus in order to deface websites or attack networks. A common Script Kiddie attack is DoSing or DDoSing (Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service), in which they flood an IP with so much information it collapses under the strain. Think of the group "Anonymous" who uses these type of attacks frequently.


While some are motivated by politics or religion, others just with to expose wrongdoing, or exact revenge, or simply harass their target for their own entertainment. There are sometimes known as the Blue Hats and bare similarities to the Script Kiddies. 

State-Sponsored Hackers 

As the saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them? Right? Exactly what the government is doing, they realise that that some hackers serve their military objectives. When it is all about controlling cyberspace, these hackers have limitless resources and funding to civilians, corporations, and governments. Ethical? Well, that's a controversial topic we might step into.

Spy Hackers

Usually hired by corporations to gain a competitive advantage and steal trade secrets from their competitors, these hackers hack from the outside or gain employment in order to act as a mole. They are quite similar to hacktivists, but their main agenda is to serve the goals of whoever is paying them.

Cyber Terrorists

Generally motivated by religious or political beliefs, these hackers intend to create fear and chaos by disrupting critical infrastructures. By far the most dangerous, these hackers are equipped with a wide range of skills and goals. Their ultimate goal? To spread fear, terror and commit murder, just 'cus.

While hacking need not necessarily be a criminal activity as mentioned above, the idea of knowing how so many viruses on the Internet is increasing is sad. As we touched upon the number or viruses and malware programmes increasing in this digital age, I remember a fond time.

While it has been close to 6 years since the world's largest and most popular peer-to-peer filesharing website has been shut down, it is still important to understand and be aware of the types of techniques used to violate systems. I will still remember this piracy machine and all the potential malware and viruses that masqueraded as media files I've downloaded in the past. Ignorance is bliss but today, bliss comes with a very hefty price tag.

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