Explainer

The good, the bad and the ugly: Understanding hackers after a year of cyber attacks

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After headline-worthy cyberattacks on a major pipeline, meat packing plant and water plant, 2021 could easily be described as the year of the ‘hack attack’.

In October, Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, which examines hacking reports on a global scale. According to the report, Russian-based organizations were responsible for 58 percent of hacks. The report also determined that the United States was the biggest target of international cyber threats.

But not all hackers and cybercrime is alike. In the world of hacking, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are three main types of hackers who conduct varying shades of illegal activity.

Black hat hackers

Simply put, black hats are the bad guys. They’re often the hackers you see in the headlines; responsible for stealing money, data and sensitive information. A Michigan State University study estimated the financial damage from these hacks as between 445 to 600 billion dollars per year.

Gray hat hackers

These hackers are usually harmless, with a lack of malicious intent. Gray hats are known for publicly showcasing vulnerabilities on other people’s websites or apps…without being asked. Hacker rule of thumb: if it’s unsolicited, it’s illegal.

White hat hackers

White hats are known as ethical hackers, serving as the strongest line of defense against black hats. Government agencies and companies hire white hats to identify cyber threats and help fix them. Unlike gray hats, their work is legal because they have permission to hack.

Nat 2 “a massive cyberattack with global reach”

Nat 1  “hackers got the personal information of tens of millions”

Nat 3 “a cybersecurity attack crippling the country’s largest fuel pipeline” 

 

IT WAS THE YEAR OF THE HACK ATTACK…

BUT BEFORE YOU THINK ALL HACKING IS EVIL

LET ME EXPLAIN….  

 

Anonymous video: “Greetings citizens of the United States. This is a message from Anonymous.”

 

THE WORLD OF HACKING IS NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE…THOUGH THAT’S A BIG PART OF IT.

 

THERE ARE 3 MAIN TYPES OF HACKERS…WITH VARYING SHADES OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITY.

 

LET’S START WITH BLACK HAT HACKERS. THESE ARE DEFINITELY THE BAD GUYS…CAUSING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DAMAGE EACH YEAR. THEY BREACH PRIVATE NETWORKS WITH THE INTENT OF STEALING MONEY, DATA, AND SENSITIVE INFORMATION. SOMETIMES IT’S A LONE WOLF, BUT MORE OFTEN THESE LARGE-SCALE BREACHES (show pics of colonial pipeline/JBS) ARE THE WORK OF HACKING SYNDICATES. MOST OFTEN FROM RUSSIA…WITH NAMES LIKE DARK SIDE AND EVIL CORP.

 

THE MOST NOTORIOUS BLACK HAT IS PROBABLY THIS GUY. WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN ASSANGE. WHILE HE’S CREDITED WITH BEING A GOVERNMENT WHISTLEBLOWER, WHEN YOU HACK THE PENTAGON, YOU GET PUT ON THE BLACKLIST.

NEXT UP- GREY HATS. THEY HAVE THE SKILLS TO  DO SOME SERIOUS DAMAGE BUT LACK THE MALICIOUS INTENT. INSTEAD, GREY HATS PUBLICLY SHOWCASE VULNERABILITIES ON OTHER PEOPLE’S SITES OR APPS. IT’S KIND OF HELPFUL, BUT ALSO UNSOLICITED AND STILL ILLEGAL.

 

DAVID LEVIN EARNED HIS GRAY HAT BY HACKING A FLORIDA ELECTIONS WEBSITE IN 2016. WHILE HIS BREACH REVEALED GOVERNMENT CYBERSECURITY FLAWS, HE ALSO SPENT A FEW WEEKS IN JAIL BECAUSE OF IT.  SO WHILE GREY HATS WONT STEAL YOUR MONEY OR PASSWORDS, THEY MIGHT HIJACK YOUR HOMEPAGE.        

—-

AND LASTLY WHITE HAT HACKERS- KNOWN AS ETHICAL HACKERS. THEY USE THEIR SKILLS FOR GOOD AND ARE THE STRONGEST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST BLACK HATS.

WHITE HATS ARE HIRED BY COMPANIES AND GOVERNMENTS TO IDENTIFY CYBERTHREATS AND HELP FIX THEM. UNLIKE GRAY HATS, THEY ACTUALLY HAVE PERMISSION, SO IT’S NOT ILLEGAL.

 

IN THEIR ANNUAL REPORT, MICROSOFT DESCRIBES CYBER CRIMES AS ‘A GROWING PLAGUE’, MAKING WHITE HAT HACKERS ONE OF THE MOST IN-DEMAND JOBS IN THE U.S.

 

THERE YOU HAVE IT, THE CODE FOR HACKERS. THEY MAY ALL WEAR HATS, BUT NOT ALL HACKERS ARE ALIKE. 

 

 

 

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After headline-worthy cyberattacks on a major pipeline, meat packing plant and water plant, 2021 could easily be described as the year of the ‘hack attack’.

In October, Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, which examines hacking reports on a global scale. According to the report, Russian-based organizations were responsible for 58 percent of hacks. The report also determined that the United States was the biggest target of international cyber threats.

But not all hackers and cybercrime is alike. In the world of hacking, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are three main types of hackers who conduct varying shades of illegal activity.

Black hat hackers

Simply put, black hats are the bad guys. They’re often the hackers you see in the headlines; responsible for stealing money, data and sensitive information. A Michigan State University study estimated the financial damage from these hacks as between 445 to 600 billion dollars per year.

Gray hat hackers

These hackers are usually harmless, with a lack of malicious intent. Gray hats are known for publicly showcasing vulnerabilities on other people’s websites or apps…without being asked. Hacker rule of thumb: if it’s unsolicited, it’s illegal.

White hat hackers

White hats are known as ethical hackers, serving as the strongest line of defense against black hats. Government agencies and companies hire white hats to identify cyber threats and help fix them. Unlike gray hats, their work is legal because they have permission to hack.

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