Black hat hackerHackers are cyberpunk Jedi. Good or bad is defined by intent, and it is frighteningly easy to get locked into one specific path. 

This is why there are now three clear labels for hackers:  Black Hats, Grey Hats and White Hats.  Each one is defined by specific actions and intents...

It is important to know which hacker falls into which category to know the good, the bad and the ugly...

Script-kiddies.  Crackers. Virus writers.  According to IT security, these are the evil boogey-men who steal your identity and make your stock options crash.  These are the Black Hats.

Some hackers are intentionally malicious.  They steal, vandalize and undermine other peoples’ work for personal profit or simply to show people that they can.  

The most fear-inducing black hack is identity theft.  Particularly in this day and age, where money, health care, property ownership and even social interactions are defined through computers, the worst nightmare of many people is to wake up in order to be told that they don’t exist anymore and have no legal rights.  Movies like The Net with Sandra Bullock and television shows like Nowhere Man explore this.

Of course, it doesn’t mean Black Hats are all bad.

Many Black Hats have a “David and Goliath” justification for their actions.

“The corporations and organizations they hack are evil monsters that take advantage of their customers and abuse their power!  It is time to take some of that power away from them.”  This is a primary thought process for hacking into banks, government organizations and large corporations.

Hacktivism justifications like this tend to be a house of cards.  When examined closely, often the only beneficiary of the hack is the hacker himself.     

 Black Hats can claim to not be fully aware of the damage they inflict.  This is particularly true when it comes to worms.  For example, a working theory of the Conficker worm was that the designer underestimated how many computers would become infected.  This is similar to Robert Morris’s 99 line code that was unleashed “as an experiment, and quickly got out of hand.

Many of the famous Black Hats such as Mitnick, Poulsen and Morris are reformed, now working as respected members of the IT community.

Black Hats tend to be a lot like trickster characters in mythology:  The effects of their hacks range from relatively harmless nuisances to full-blown hurt.

Famous movie Black Hats include Seth Green’s “Napster” from The Italian Job, Wayne Knight’s “Dennis Nedry” from Jurassic Park, Timothy Olyphant’s “Thomas Gabriel” in Live Free or Die Hard and all the characters from the movie Hackers.  Hackers Role Call

Hackers in particular shows a nebulous division between Black Hats who hack for a free-spirited curiosity and playful revenge against their enemies (the protagonists) and those who hack for money and physically harmful “first strike” protection (the antagonist).

For more information, check the Top 10 Hacks of all time


The Top 20 Hackers in Film History


Next week:  The White Hats


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