Ever since I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a hacker. I wanted to be that keyboard god, adjusting everything I saw fit through my computer. Jolt cola at 3 a.m. forcing my way into this mainframe or that server. See, when I was 8 years old I thought hackers could do anything. Like a splendid form of wizardry to form life to be whatever I wanted. Good grades? Hack into the school computer and change them. Nothing on TV? Hack into the television station and change what’s on. Wanted an N64? I’ll just hack into a bank and give myself money. Easy!
So what is a hacker?
Search Security gives us this definition: “Hacker is a term used by some to mean “a clever programmer” and by others, especially those in popular media, to mean “someone who tries to break into computer systems.”
Search Security also tells us: “The term hacker is used in popular media to describe someone who attempts to break into computer systems. Typically, this kind of hacker would be a proficient programmer or engineer with sufficient technical knowledge to understand the weak points in a security system.”
Well, over the years I have learned there is a lot of different definitions to hacking. Sure, a lot of people still presume it’s a bunch of people wearing Guy Fawkes masks leaking information about our Senators. Though, there is a bit more to it now days. It’s not quite like the movies make it out to be. Let’s go through the common misconceptions when it comes to the term “hacker”.
All Hackers are Criminals
This is definitely a common misconception in hacking. Being a hacker doesn’t mean you’re a criminal, or an evil person. Hacking is not illegal. “White hat” hackers are paid specifically to stop people from performing malicious tasks towards a site, server, or mainframe. White hat hackers analyze websites in an attempt to determine what may exploit the site to the “black hat” hackers. Essentially, these ethical hackers are paid to break into a site and then tell them where security can be boosted.
Many ethical hackers will work from home working on finding bugs on websites and in Web applications to collect pay. There are companies out there, such as Google, which will pay you up to $20,000 to find exploits in their websites and software.
The majority of hackers out there do spend the majority of their time breaking into high profile websites, but it’s for good. They are trying to help these websites become safer. This is especially fantastic for these white hat wizards, because when they find these bugs they get paid well.
If It’s A Computer Or Mainframe, It Can Be Hacked
Movies depict hacking as if it’s a magical way to extract any information at any time. It gives us this strange idea that sitting behind a website is a pile of secret information just waiting to be grabbed. This idea is most definitely false. You may be able to expose a password protect screen online, but you won’t find any juicy material if you’re trying to hack into the NSA’s mainframes.
These records are going to be kept in a private server database which is likely never connected to any sort of online portal. The government knows that people are attempting to break into their data at any given time, so why would they leave it up for grabs like that? You know that guy who says he can do anything every time you tell a story. Well, next time tell a story about how you found the nuclear launch codes hidden behind a government site.
Hackers Are Out To Destroy The Internet
So, this is definitely a common misconception. A lot of people think that hackers are out to destroy the internet, get into our social media and steal our identities. They aim for some type of online chaos or anarchist agenda. Now, I’m definitely not saying that there aren’t people in the world who do want to do those things, but for the most part, hackers set out to accomplish something specific.
Most hackers don’t care about or want your personal information. The ones that do are primarily going to use social engineering to get it. This involves flattery, self-confidence hype, or straight out lies in order to trick you into revealing some sensitive or personal information about you. We are all at risk for that.
Hackers Only Target Microsoft Computers
“Oh, I have a Mac. I’m not going to get hacked.” How many times have you heard that one? Well, you’re wrong. Hackers can definitely target any computer whether it’s Microsoft or Apple. Windows will attract more attention from hackers, but this doesn’t exactly mean they can’t break into other devices.
The IoT (internet of things) makes us more susceptible to hacking on multiple devices. With data being shared with our phones, tablets, external hard drives, laptops, PC’s, and the Cloud, there are even more targets available now to hackers attempting to get the data they’re looking for.
Hackers Are Loners
So what do we picture a hacker acting like or looking like? Somebody sitting at their computer late at night eating hot pockets and watching Zena tapes? However you picture it, they’re usually by themselves, at home or at the coffee shop, planning world domination. Am I right? This may have been more true in the beginning of computer hacking, since back in the 80’s and 90’s hackers were more black hat, but not so much anymore.
There are places of business now that strictly and only hire different types of hackers. They deal in cyber-security. Cyber security is one of the highest growing technology related career paths in 2015. People will pay great money for you to secure their online data.
So, in reality, hackers aren’t all bad. We actually need them to help us with security on our sites. That concept I had as an 8 year old definitely doesn’t quite fit the bill anymore. Not to say there aren’t hackers out there attempting to do some bad, for the most part they are using their skill to help.
You want to be a hacker? There’s many different avenues to take. Hopefully, you don’t choose the dark side. Below is some more information on Ethical Hacking and Cyber Security. There’s plenty you can do to help!
Ethical Hacking Career Information
Cyber Security Career Information