SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about the motivation of various types of hackers.
In contrast to Script Kiddies, or hackers who are primarily seeking to explore, professional hackers engage in their activities because it is a job. There are at least four different types of professional hackers.
- White hats – White hat hackers (also called Ethical Hackers) are often employed by security firms to hack into a clients system. This is called Pen Testing (short for penetration testing because they seek to penetrate the clients network). This is done with the idea in mind that if the security firm is able to breach the network, the network is vulnerable to attack. The security firms document everything that is done, and also provide guidance for specific remediation of deficiencies discovered. Often the client specifies in the agreement that the hack will take place during a set period of time, and also they may place restrictions on the information provided to the security team. Most of the time, taking down the network is not a goal.
- Government hackers – Various countries routinely engage in hacking activities as a way to gather information. They may target military secrets, government officials, corporations, or even private citizens. Targets range from gathering information from email accounts, databases, various database servers, or phone systems. Because of the nearly inexhaustible resources of government funds, these types of hacks are nearly impossible to stop, and often are undetectable. Quite often, these hacks also involve compromising physical security as well. When one has physical access to a device, it is game over.
- Criminal enterprises – With resources that rival government funding, criminal enterprises have in recent years become major players in hacking. Interestingly enough, many of the computer crimes follow the same traditional crimes that the various enterprises previously engaged in: blackmail, extortion, theft, gambling, fraud all have found new homes in the virtual world. The motivation for criminal enterprises is simple: money. Anything that can net serious money becomes fair game.
- Independent hackers – These are either Script Kiddies or the people who were experimenting who got sucked over to the dark side (primarily so they can pay for their hardware requirements). They do things like infect thousand (or hundreds of thousands) of computers with malware that siphons off CPU time, Memory, and Internet bandwidth. These infected computers are often referred to as Zombies. The independent hackers then auction off Zombie Networks to the highest bidders, or they simply sell computer time on their Zombie Networks. Often they are selling the ability to send out massive amounts of spam, or the ability to run parallel computing to crack passwords, Mine BitCoins, or other CPU intensive tasks.
Join me tomorrow where I will begin a discussion of the different types of hacker activities. Until then, I hope you have a tremendous day.