The term “hacker” can cause a lot of confusion amongst those who aren’t quite up to speed with the different types of hackers in existence and where the term actually originates from. Fundamentally, a hacker isn’t a bad person — a hacker isn’t someone who like in the movies sits in a dark room, types rapidly on a screen with some funky green text and breaks into some “mainframe” so that they can access some of the sensitive details and data of some people, to use for their illicit activities.
Don’t get me wrong, a hacker could very well assume that form, but that type of hacker, referred to as a cracker (or a so-called “black-hat” hacker) doesn’t lead a life which is as exciting as the movies make it out to be. That green text and rapid typing you see in the movies is nothing more than a theatrical adaptation for what is otherwise very boring, repetitive and tedious work. Since we’re already discussing black hat hackers (crackers), we might as well get right into it.
Black hat hackers or crackers are the malicious types of hackers who normally try to make money out of their illicit online nefariousness or they simply break into systems for the fun of it, or for notoriety. Crackers aren’t necessarily highly intelligent nerds who are trying to get their own back from what the world seemingly took away from them though. They could very well be some people who’ve spent enough time with their computers, refining their programming skills.
White Hat Hackers
White hat hackers are the opposite of crackers and their job is usually just to try to assume the role of a black hat hacker so that they can expose any vulnerabilities in a specific system with the ultimate aim of helping plug those security holes and beef up the security of those systems. The job of a white hat hacker is perhaps even more boring than the “job” of a black hat hacker.
Hacktivists could be described to be a mixture of black hat and white hat hackers, rather astutely referred to as grey hat hackers in some circles. The hacktivist however assumes the self-appointed role of a digital Robin Hood, in many respects. Hacktivists are often armed with the complete skillset of a cracker, but they believe that they’re using their hacking skills for noble causes. So if a hacktivist group doesn’t agree with the principles of a certain organisation for instance, they’d endeavour to crack that organisation’s systems as part of their protests.
All this hacker speak leads us all the way back to the original hacker whose brain we’re picking and these types of hackers mean no harm at all to anyone. The original hacker is a hacker in the true sense of the term, in that they use their smarts to hack solutions — solutions which they usually use for themselves, to make their own lives easier, but solutions which they’re often willing to share with others — usually with other hackers as well who reciprocate the favour.