Once upon a time, there was a computer. That computer was connected to the internet, where it mingled with millions of other computers, and shared data in thousands of different ways. That computer was connected to a keyboard, at the tip of my fingers, and it led me into a strange and wondrous journey of technology’s darker underbelly… A world of cracking, coding, and trading exploits… A world of Hacking.
It’s been nearly a week now. Sleep is lessening, electricity bill is rising, and this curiosity of Technology’s dark side still has yet to be satiated. What makes a hacker? Who are hackers? What do they do? What do they look like? The questions all have the same answer, but each hacker has their own story.
I started my journey, googling a way to monitor computer activity. Having a few years in C/C++ programming, I clicked a link that offered the source code of some new (to me) concept called a keylogger. A keylogger records everything typed, and displays it to it’s master. It was the perfect answer to my needs, and I couldn’t help but be curious as to how it worked.
That link led me to a forum, where thousands of people were trading their goods, knowledge, and opinions.. as if it were a street-side marketplace. ‘This couldn’t be a REAL hacker community,’ I thought to myself, ‘Hackers are supposed to be elusive.’
But this forum worked just like any other forum I had ever seen or used. I had to register. I had to learn more. It was too fascinating, that it was so open. I didn’t believe it was real.
I started in my comfort zone. A C/C++ Programming sub-forum. ‘Nice, and easy..’ I thought. If it WAS real… I didn’t want to wake the giant.. only look around. I saw people posting threads (personalized topics within the sub-forum) about networking code, far advanced even for my experience. There were kids asking for help with simple things like “Which should I learn; C, or C++?” and a hectic variety of levels in-between. I said my piece here, letting on a little bit of my knowledge, so that I may feel as though I earned the right to explore. I gave advice on the differences between the two languages, which compilers to use, and what to use (and avoid) in in-code
It was time to move on. Time to explore a bit more. There were 5-6 main forums, all in a tidy navigation bar. I clicked Hacking.
The sub-forums in this area were much different. They weren’t like the coding forum I was growing familiar with. The first Sub-forum was “Hacking For Beginners,” as if it were a daily thing. Again, my curiosity perked…
It was night now, and the sun had long since passed behind the horizon… I saw my computer screen reflection in my glasses, back in the screen. I was reading Tutorials now on how to crack wifi encryptions, bruteforcing admin privileges on web servers, defacing sites, even how to get around content filters on work computers!
I was reading bashes on windows (commonly referred to as ‘winblows’ in most cases) and I found myself converting to Linux. So now not only was I learning about a whole new world of “computing,” I was learning a whole new Operating System (OS) as well. You would think that converting to Linux was enough… But no, my thirst for knowledge was still not quenched.
Now, I was learning the tools of the trade… I had started to inject and intercept packets (data transferred between a computer and it’s respective connection) I was learning how to attack passwords with an entire dictionary at my disposal, and my C/C++ code was starting to look very different. Now I was writing programs that joined into the registry and installed silently. Completely FUD (Fully UnDetectable). But this still wasn’t enough. I had gotten a feel for the technological side, but not yet touched base with the psychological. It was simply scratching the surface, and I was hooked like it was a drug.
There’s two MAIN types of “Hackers,” I discovered. The black hats, and the white hats(There’s much more, but these are the two I’m going to cover). The black hats were the ones who invaded your computer, bending it to their will. The white hats were the ones trying to constantly come up with protections against the black hats.. making the computer world safer. Somehow, however… they seemed to get along in perfect harmony here, in the forum. They needed one another. The black hat needed the white hat to make things complicated, so that the black hat could do new tricks to evade the white hat’s ongoing process. And the white hat needed the black hat to continue improving their job. It was like a game of Chess, except in this game, there were no rules.
Why do they do it? The answer was obvious to me, but it seemed not to be real. It was too simple. But it had to be, as it was not only a philosophy, but a proven point even by myself. You don’t learn to hack… You hack to learn.
No matter which side they fell on, white hat, black hat, or the others not mentioned here… They all seemed to be driven by the same cause… To constantly learn new things. What’s more… is they’re anyone. The guy hopping Mc’Donalds wifi, or the guy working at the bank computer terminal. No… I correct myself. The GIRL working at the bank computer terminal. No one specific type of person fits the “hacker description.” They’re everywhere.
Do we fear them? Yes. Should we? Not if we want to live our lives to the fullest.
Well, how can we protect ourselves? Stay up to date with our computer virus protections. Be wary of our sensitive information. Don’t use common words as our passwords for our facebooks, myspaces, bank accounts, etc.. Don’t be overly paranoid… But don’t be underly concerned. If they want our information, they can likely get it. Our only protection is knowledge to defend with.
Also keep in mind… Anything can be “hacked.” Including the human mind. It’s not JUST computers. Back in the day, people hacked phones, using tones to trick the phone company into giving the Phreakers (Term coined for phone hackers back in the days of 2600hz, the start of modern day hacking) a free phone call.
So who are hackers? Anyone. Can you spot them in a group? Nope. What do they do? They learn. What makes them a hacker? Curiosity not satisfied by getting an answer… but by finding it out themselves.. And then testing the answer to see if it can’t be bent.