Friday, April 17, 2009

Hackers

Well, I did a presentation about hackers for my English class and seems that my class mates liked it so Saša invited me to post few lines about the topic. So, fasten the seatbelts and rock'n'roll :)

The first queston that comes in mind when speaking about hackers is: who is a hacker? Usually we think about hackers like some anti-social individuals breaking into computer systems searching for classified data. This is the image of hackers that mass-media created, because people dig stories about super-inteligent teenagers that rule the cyberspace. Nevertheless, the truth is much simpler.
Hackers are just individuals who like to explore computer systems and networks. Period. Just ordinary guys - not some gods or voodoo magicians. Even the most famous hacker (well, actually he was black hat hacker, but we'll come to that part) - Kevin Mitnick - admited that most of his targets were "low-hanging fruit". In his own words he often did it like this: telnet to server, username: guest, password: guest ... and he was in. Many of his famous break-ins were just reflection of poor security policy. And even today is not much different.

The hackers scene is deeply related with UNIX operating system, C programing language and ARPAnet. In fact, people involved in those projects are today known as pioneeer hackers. In those early years phreakers were more common than hackers mainly because at that time there were not many computer networks while phone systems were pretty evolved. Phreaker is a person who likes to explore telephone systems, basically a phone hacker.

Like every sub-culture hackers also have their unwritten laws and ethic codex. Some well know hacker's ethic rules are this:

  • all information should be free
  • access to computers should be unlimited and total
  • destroying things is easy, the hardest part is to build them
But the cornerstone of hackers culture is considered to be a short essay called "The manifest". This essay was written by a hacker named "The Mentor" shortly after his arrest in 1986. It's worth reading. "The Manifest" gives the insight view of hackers philosophy. The manifest states that hackers choose to hack because hacking is the way to learn, kind of intellectual challenge, but also because, they feel bored and frustrated about limitations of modern society.

That was once upon a time. Today we have like many flavors of hackers. Most of them fits into script kiddie category. Script kiddies are mainly teenagers that have a minimal knowledge of computers and networks but they are using publicly available hacker's tools and programs to attack the systems.
White hats (or ethical hackers) are good guys. If they found a vulnerability they will report it to developer.
Black hats (or crackers) are bad guys. If they found a vulnerability they will exploit it, sell it or publicly disclose it.
Grey hats are a hybrid between black and white hats. Sometimes they will act legal while sometime not.
Corporate hackers are hackers who are working for large corporations, searching for security holes in corporate environment and making big bucks :) Did you know that Microsoft also hires hackers? BTW, this guys are often called "Security professionals" because the term hacker is not appropriate for serious business.
If you are wondering if they are really wearing those hats? No, they don't. This is just fictional and taken from old spagetti-western movies where the bad guys are wearing black hats while the good guys are wearing white hats. And what is the color of your hat? :)

The most famous hacker is Kevin Mitnick, of course. He was black hat. He penetrated many corporate networks - supposedly searching for source code. He was 5 years on the run, then arrested by FBI (he was actually traced by a white hat hacker), spent 5 years in prison and when he got out he was not allowed to use computers or cell phones for three more years. Today he works as corporate hacker. He are some other hackers worth to mention (all white hats this time): Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman and Bill Gates.

That is. If you read it until here then you're probably interested in hackers. You may be even asking yourself: "Am I also a hacker?". Luckily for you, there is a universal solution to answer that question. If you can understand this:

ph33r u5 n0w 'c0z w3 pwn u L1k3 7h47 w17h ju57 p1ng, 7r4c3r7 4nd n375747

than you're almost certainly a script kiddie. :)

10 comments:

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

Hi Edi!

Very nice text! The topic is already very attractive (for me at least...) and you wrote it in a very gripping way. Good job!

I knew the difference between a hacker and a cracker, but had never heard of the classification you presented. Thanks!

I cold read part of the last sentence, just couldn't make out the two last words... does that make me half a hacker?

=)

Kindest regards from Brazil!

Ronaldo

Saša said...

Edi,
thanks for posting your summary here, also for providing the link to that manifesto you talked about in class - I enjoyed reading it but it also made me feel a bit sad, the tone there reminded me of all those kids around our schools that feel rejected by the system for one reason or another. Curiosity is essentially a good thing it just shouldn't hurt others.

Edi said...

@Ronaldo:
glad you liked the text. Being a hacker (the *true* hacker) is not just about computer skills, but it's actually a state of mind. You don't become a hacker - you're born as one. If you read the manifest and you found it familiar, then you have the hacker's spirit.

@Saša:
I agree, the manifesto it's pretty heavy stuff. No wondering that after almost 25 years is still there - representing the center of the hackers culture. Simple, straight to the point and from the heart.

Helen said...

Hi Edi
I enjoyed reading your text. I know I have a quite "romantic" view of the hacker. In an age where more and more information about us is stored often without our knowledge, it seems comforting to know that some people are able to "crack" the system ! We just have to hope they're wearing the white hats !!
regards from France

Cristina said...

Hi Edi!
Congrats on your hard work. I was one of those who thought that hackers were a new generation of criminals. Hope we only come across white hats. Thank you for so much information. Hugs from Argentina. Cristina in Banfield.

cristina said...

Hi Edi!
Congrats on your hard work. I was one of those who thought hackers were a new generation of criminals. Hope we only come across white hats. Thank you for so much information. Hugs from Argentina. Cristina.

nicolas said...

Excellent Job!! Thanks for knowing the difference between black hats and white hats..because it ignored the issue, I thought that all were Black hats(or crackers)..Regards from Argentina.

Edi said...

Thank you for all your nice comments.

BTW, did you know that Google hires hackers too: Google :-)

Saša said...

LOL :-)

carla holdosi said...

hello! I`m carla I came from argentina. if I have to be honest , well, I`ll tell you that I`m not interested in hackers and aia enterd here becuase the scout`s opage was closed.
But no that I`ve been reading this coment I am amazing because you did a great job, you are showing us that you investigated a lot. and now I remember a lot of thins that I FORGOTTEN SUCH AS the different kinds of hackers that exist.
Well.. continue writting
bye bye