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White, grey and black hackers hats

By Vladimir Golubev
Date: June 28, 2003

Stop Cyber Crime People attacking computer systems are named as hackers in mass media (and accordingly in a society). However many representatives of a computer underground think that according to the history, the word "hacker" concerns the person who increases functionalities of computers. Hence, hackers are the "good" people acting with noble aims: they train a computer in performance of new functions. The use of a word "hacker" in describing the computer vandals or thieves deforms not only sense of the term, but also the historical concept of "hacking".

People which use the term "hacker" with a positive meaning, describe the person attacking computer systems as "cracker". So, on a professional slang the hackers are "good", but crackers are "bad". However, as mass media name both their as "hackers", the term "cracker" is used very seldom.

Sometimes it is possible to see such combinations as black hat or white hat in relation to the different kinds of attacks. As in Westerns, where the “bad guys” wore black hats, and “good guys” wore white hats, the term “black hat” is used for designation of the attacking malefactor, but “white hat” is used for the expert in the field of computer safety, who tries to protect systems against breaking. "Black hat" tries to penetrate into system, a "white hat" finds weak spots and corrects defects. It is obvious, that people which work on two fronts (sometimes they attack systems, and sometimes protect them), are called "gray hats". Confusion in terminology has necessitated to name everyone who attacks the computers as "attackers". "Attackers" can act as hackers, crackers, "white hat", "black hat", "gray hat", researcher of computer safety system and so on, all of them attack computers irrespective of their motives and aims. This problem has very important legal aspect. From the legal point of view, the court only can define "hackers", "crackers", "freackers", "carders" and etc. as the criminals.

If you broke the law and the court proved your fault, be so kind to pay according to the law, in spite of your name.

Computer Crime Research Center

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