Hackers are technically skilled people in the hardware and software environment. They find vulnerabilities of systems to draw attention to them or to use them for specific purposes such as unauthorized intrusion or to change functions.
What is a hacker?
Hackers in the hardware environment try to specifically change the functions of devices by modifying them or adding additional components. Basically, there is no restriction on what type of device hackers manipulate. They range from simple electrical devices such as coffee machines to highly complex IT products such as game consoles or smart home products.
Often, hardware hackers have a playfully creative approach to technology. Many hackers in the hardware environment see their activities as an intellectual challenge and pursue hacking as a kind of hobby to overcome the set limits of the devices. For IT products with programmable components, the line between hardware and software hackers can become blurred.
Hackers in the software and Internet environment do not engage in hardware manipulation but attempt to gain access to systems. Access can be gained, for example, via networks such as the Internet or via physical interfaces.
To penetrate systems, hackers exploit known or self-discovered vulnerabilities or programming errors and bypass existing security measures. After penetrating the systems, they have the opportunity to execute protected functions, access data files, modify data or delete them. The compromised systems can also be used to penetrate further protected areas.
To find vulnerabilities, generate them or disguise the unauthorized intrusion, hackers use techniques such as:
- Trojan horses
- Memory overflows
- and others
Motivation and law-abidingness of different types of hackers
Depending on their motivation and law-abidingness, different types of hackers can be distinguished. The three main hacker types are white-hat hackers, grey-hat hackers, and black-hat hackers.
Often called ethical hackers, operate within the law and pursue their goals while adhering to a hacker ethic. They inform the affected companies about the discovered vulnerabilities in the computer networks and computers. Their goal is to find vulnerabilities, expose them, and eliminate the vulnerabilities by providing information. This is to raise the general level of security in the computer and network environment. Many companies use white-hats to subject their computers and IT devices to systematic penetration tests and find hidden vulnerabilities.
Operate in a legal gray area and interpret hacker ethics in their favor. They, too, seek to find and expose vulnerabilities but put pressure on companies by publicizing them. This can serve to make denying vulnerabilities impossible or to increase their own notoriety and commercial success. A clear distinction between malicious and benign actions is usually not possible with grey hats.
Work illegally and are driven by criminal energy. Their goal is to impair the functions of systems or to steal or manipulate data by penetrating them without permission. Disclosing discovered vulnerabilities to other criminal organizations is also a common practice of black hats. The destructive actions of black hats force them to go underground.