During its infancy, cybercrime was really more of a novelty than an actual threat. Young hackers would write harmless viruses that would display a funny message or break into supposedly secure systems just to poke around. However, as the internet began to grow throughout the world and change the way that people and organizations interact, those with the propensity and ability began to fully realize the power that they could hold over an increasingly digital world. Today, hackers are anything but harmless. Acting alone or as organized groups, hackers have infiltrated the highest levels of government and defense, cost the United States and its civilians hundreds of billions of dollars, and destroyed countless lives. But what kind of people would dedicate their existence to such endeavors? Well, here’s a quick guide to the different kinds of hackers that operate in the world today.
1. State Sponsored Attackers
Perhaps the most dangerous of the modern hacker groups are the state sponsored hackers. These are clandestine groups who are government funded and trained and exist to undermine the nations and countries that they consider to be their political enemies. These hackers are able to work as organized groups and to devote all of their time to hacking (as opposed to many other hackers who need to be able to maintain a legitimate career). These groups pose a constant and legitimate threat to the stability of the country and the economy.
2. Cyber Terrorists
Although sometimes just as well organized as state sponsored hackers, cyber terrorists are generally less centralized, less well funded and trained, and motivated by personal beliefs. These groups intend to create fear by disrupting vital computer systems in an effort to advance their own agenda.
A blanket term used to describe any politically motivated hacker (including cyber terrorists), “Hacktivist” is a portmanteau of the words “hacker” and “activist.” These groups generally believe that they are making the world a better place and that they possess a moral high-ground which justifies their crimes. Hacktivists are generally disorganized, but extremely numerous. They tend to operate as individuals or as small “cells.” They are often made up of a mixture of talented, professional hackers and amateur “skript kiddies.”
4. Skript Kiddies
Skript Kiddies are untrained and unskilled hackers who generally make use of downloaded, easy-to-use hacker programs and widely-known techniques to find and take advantage of existing online security weaknesses. They generally do so for entertainment purposes or perhaps for small personal gain and have little regard for the damage that they do.
5. Corporate Hacker Spies
Hacker spies are usually hired by corporations to infiltrate competing businesses and steal valuable trade secrets. Hacktivists are not motivated by politics, religion, or any other personal beliefs, but instead operate as mercenaries, demanding money for their services. They may gain access to their target networks a variety of ways, including but not limited to brute-force break ins, posing as “mole’ employees, and sneaking into company wide-area networks (even ones that use WAN optimization techniques).
6. Hacker Coders
Coders are the “arms dealers” of the hacking world. They are the ones who design the various malicious programs and scripts that many other hackers utilize in order to gain access to systems. Although many hackers are also coders, and make extensive use of their own programs, some coders have little hacking experience, preferring instead to sell their work to others.
7. White Hat Hackers
Not all hackers are malicious criminals or even annoying pranksters. Some hackers actually operate on the correct side of the law. These people are known as white hat hackers, and they are often employed by organizations to help them identify possible weaknesses in existing security systems.
8. Black hat hackers
Unfortunately, there seem to be more black hat hackers operating in the world than white hat hackers. These hackers use a variety of illegal techniques and programs, and are generally willing to cause massive amounts of damage to the systems they invade. They are usually motivated by the desire to steal money.
Of course, it is impossible to identify and catalogue every hacker subgroup given their widely varying possible motives and techniques. Likewise, many hackers tend to fall into multiple categories. What is important is being aware of what kind of hackers exist.