What is a hacker?
The term "hacker" is often used to refer to a computer pirate. Victims of piracy on computer networks like to think they have been attacked by experienced pirates who have carefully studied their system and developed specific tools to exploit its flaws.
The term hacker has had more than one meaning since it first appeared in the late 1950s. In the beginning, this word was favorably used to describe expert programmers. Then in the 1970s it was used to describe computer revolutionaries, who mostly went on to become the founders of major computer companies.
It was during the 1980s that this word was used to categorize people involved in video game piracy, by disabling the protections on these games and reselling copies of them.
Today, this word is often wrongly used to refer to people who break into computer systems.
The various types of pirates
In reality there are various types of "attackers" categorized in function of their experience and motivations:
- "White hat hackers", hackers in the noble sense of the term, whose goal is to help improve computer systems and technologies, are generally responsible for the main computing protocols and tools we use today; E-mail is one of the best examples;
- "Black hat hackers", more commonly called pirates, are people who break into computer systems for malicious purposes;
- "Script kiddies" (also sometimes called crashers, lamers and packet monkeys) are young network users who use programs they have found on the Internet, often ineptly, to vandalize computer systems for fun.
- "Phreakers" are pirates who use the switched telephone network (STN) to make free phone calls thanks to electronic circuits (called boxes, like the blue box, the violet box, etc.) connected to the telephone line in order to manipulate its functioning. The word "phreaking" therefore refers to telephone line piracy.
- "Carders" mainly attack chip card systems (particularly bank cards) to understand how they work and to exploit their flaws. The term carding refers to chip card piracy.
- "Crackers" are not cheese snacks but rather people aiming to create software tools that make it possible to attack computer systems or crack the copy protection of user-fee software. A "crack" is therefore an executable program created to modify (patch) the original software to as to remove its protection.
- "Hacktivists" (contraction of hackers and activists) are hackers with mainly ideological motivations. The term has been widely used by the press, to convey the idea of a parallel community (generally called underground, in allusion to the underground populations of science-fiction films.
In reality, this type of distinction is not so clear, in that some white hat hackers at some point have been black hat hackers and vice versa. Regular users of distribution lists and forums often see subjects discussing the difference that should be made between a pirate and a hacker. The term troll is generally used to refer to sensitive subjects that stir up intense responses.
Some examples of trolls:
- I've been attacked by a hacker
- Is Windows more solid than Mac?
- Is it better to use PHP or ASP?
Sources of motivation
Black hat hackers (pirates) may act for a variety of reasons:
- the appeal of the forbidden;
- financial interest;
- political interest;
- ethical interest;
- desire for recognition;
- a desire to do harm (destroy data, keep a system from functioning).
White hat hackers (hackers) generally have one of the following goals:
- to learn;
- to optimize computer systems;
- to test technologies to their limits in order to strive toward a more effective and reliable ideal.
The "Z" culture
Here are a few definitions specific to "underground" culture:
- Warez: software piracy;
- Appz (contraction of applications and warez): application piracy;
- Gamez (contraction of games and warez): video game piracy.
- Serialz (contraction of serials and warez): these are serial numbers that make it possible to illegally register copies of commercial software;
- Crackz (contraction of cracks and warez): these are programs written by crackers that are used to automatically delete the copy protection systems of commercial applications.
The "C0wb0y" language
Fans of real time communication (IRC, chatting, instant messaging) have most likely already found themselves engaged in a discussion with a user expressing himself in a rare language where vowels are replaced with numbers.
This language, mainly used by script kiddies in the underground culture, is called "c0wb0y" language. It involves replacing certain letters (usually vowels) with numbers to give the impression that the attacker has a certain knowledge of hacking techniques and technologies. Here are a few possible substitutions:
Here is the result using some common words:
- Bee = B33
- Tomato = T0m4t0