Picture this: a young person is in a dark room. The only thing visible is their figure, as it is just barely lit by the blinding LEDs of their computer screen. They type furiously on an ergonomic keyboard as thousands of lines of neon green monospace text fly across the screen. Click-clack-click-clack-click-clack. The moving text and the flying fingers come to a halt, and the computer emits a positive sounding “ding!” Out from underneath a dark hooded sweatshirt, the figure then announces that they have “gotten into the mainframe.”

Break scene.

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When many people hear the term “hacker,” what they initially think of is not far off from the imagery just described. Thanks to movies and television shows that portray hackers this way, ‘dangerous’ and ‘criminal’ are thought to be accurate descriptors of the profession. Hackers seem to be mythical and powerful individuals, using their computer knowledge to break into systems and steal information. While this perception is not necessarily impossible, it is not completely accurate, either. What many people outside of the security industry do not realize is that hackers aren’t created equal and that the world of computers, security and data is actually safer because of hackers.

Hackers generally come in one of three forms: Black Hat, White Hat, and Grey Hat. The terminology comes from old spaghetti westerns where the “bad guy” would typically be the one wearing the black hat and the “good guy” a white hat. The two main things that differentiate these three groups are their intentions and whether or not they have received permission to complete certain tasks.

Black Hat Hackers

Let’s begin with Black Hat hackers. Black Hat hackers are the ones with poor intentions. These people, like all hackers, have somewhat advanced knowledge of computers and use these (Read more...)