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Hacker is a colloquial term for a skilled programmer and a computer enthusiast. The term ‘hacker’ is used in a pejorative sense in today’s world. The media and popular culture have cooped this term to refer to individuals with extensive computer knowledge whose primary objective is to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and internet security for the sole purpose of breaking into systems and access software without paying royalties. Eric S. Raymond who authored The New Hacker’s Dictionary describes a hacker as a clever programmer. Eric Raymond lists five parameters to qualify an individual as a hacker. Listed below are characteristics paraphrased according to him.

  • The person who is involved in learning a programming language or system.

  • The person who programs rather than theorize it.

  • The person who appreciates somebody else’s hacking

  • The person who masters programming quickly.

  • The person who is an expert in a particular system or programming language, as in ‘UNIX Hacker’.

The subculture of programmers who indulge in the activity of overcoming limitations of computer software systems intellectually and creatively is called Hacker culture. The act of involving in such activities is termed as ‘Hacking’. In a wider sense, there are different types of hackers, to classify them into three broad categories; hackers can be black hat hackers, grey hat hackers, white hat hackers and script Kiddie.  

Black hat hacker

The black hat hacker is a term coined by Richard Stallman as a contrast to the unethical nature of a criminal who acts against the spirit and investigating the ability of the hacker culture. Black hackers, also known as dark-side hackers or Crackers, breach into secure networks to modify, steal or destroy data and more importantly make the networks unusable for authorized network uses. These hackers are wholly contrary to the white hackers.

White Hat Hacker

Ethical computer hacker or a computer security expert who is specialized in penetration testing and various other testing methodologies to guarantee the security of an organization’s information system is referred to a White Hat Hacker. These hackers may work in teams called sneakers, red teams or tiger teams, who are renowned groups of computer experts. These hackers intrude into protected systems and networks to assess and test their security. IBM coined a term which implies a broader category than just penetration testing called ethical hacking. Their skills are used to further improve the security by exposing vulnerabilities before malicious hacker who are referred to as black hat hackers. The terms are derived from western films, where antagonistic and heroic cowboys who traditionally wear a white or black hat respectively. White hat hackers have legal permission to hack the organization that has hired them to increase the security of the company while the black hat hackers do it illegally.

Gray Hat Hacker

As the word suggests, Gray hat hackers are neither white nor black but have the features of both the hackers. The name also derives from the ‘black hat hackers and the ‘white hat hackers’, which began to be used in the late 1990s. Unlike the black and white hat hackers, these hackers neither perform illegally nor legally. They intrude into a system without the owner’s consent or knowledge and search for vulnerabilities. After finding the issues, they report the owner requesting small fees to fix the issue and if the owner doesn’t respond, the hackers might post the issue online to publicize it. These hackers do not have malicious intentions, but they look forward to new discoveries. However, this type of hacking is still considered illegal since the consent of the owner is not taken in prior by the hacker.

Script Kiddie (script kiddy)

In the hacking culture, the term suggests individuals who are unskilled hackers and who depend on the scripts or programs of original hackers to unethically attack computer systems, networks and to deface websites to identify themselves as advanced hackers. They are usually identified as juveniles who are unaware of writing a sophisticated script, though the term does not confine to the age of a hacker.



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