What is a hacker?

Hackers have been all over the news recently. But what is a hacker? Keep reading to learn they are and how hackers do what they do.

Hackers: Who are they and where did they come from?

Brian Harvey, a Berkeley University professor, discusses the origin of the term in an essay (1985).  He suggests “hacker” was first used to describe students at MIT who shirked their school work in favour of other hobbies. With the advent of the personal computer, many students moved into computer programming. Here’s how Harvey describes it:

A hacker is “someone who lives and breathes computers, who knows all about computers, who can get a computer to do anything. Equally important, though, is the hacker’s attitude. Computer programming must be a hobby, something done for fun, not out of a sense of duty or for the money. (It’s okay to make money, but that can’t be the reason for hacking.)”

Clearly, the definition and ethics of hacking have greatly shifted.

What is a hacker?

Today the term hacker is almost exclusively used in reference to internet criminals. But there are actually two different types of hackers:

1. Black hat hackers – the common hacker most people think of when they hear the term. These guys mostly use their computer literacy for personal financial gain

2. White hat hackers – are like internet double agents who break into security systems to help companies fortify their firewalls and better protect your information. Computer experts rely on white hat hackers to strengthen security systems and internet privacy.

What do hackers do?

  • Search for “zero-day” security vulnerability – these are security flaws in online programs and a means of accessing a database of information. Hackers make money by selling this information to organized crime groups.
  • Gain access to computers and logging personal information – this is done primarily through phishing scams and social engineering. Ultimately the computer becomes infected with keyloggers and backdoors that track passwords and credit card information.
  • Hactivism – instead of personal financial gain, this type of hacking is fighting for political agendas. They hack into government computers and large organizations, and use these systems to promote their views. Some examples include Petya Ransomware, Code Red worm and even the Facebook hack

Make sure you are staying safe on the internet and running a regular FixMeStick scan to avoid being hacked or scammed.