A hacker is smart, much smarter than the average. With just a few clicks and a few key combinations, he’s hacked into the systems of governments, government agencies and large corporations. He avoids the public and acts in secret. His skin is pale, he always wears dark clothes and works late into the night – that’s what Hollywood tells us. And the stereotypes created by the film industry remain in our consciousness… But who is behind the ingenious attacks that frighten whole companies? How can we imagine the developers of Ryuk, Emotet and WannaCry?
- White Hats: The “ethical” hackers move legally through the systems of companies that have hired them to search for vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure
- Black Hats: Also known as “crackers”, they are the black sheep of the hacker herd. Sabotage of systems, extortion and theft of confidential data and information, that’s what Black Hats are after. With their hacks, they often do great financial damage. The motives have different backgrounds.
- Grey Hats: There is not always black or white. Between the white hats and the black hats, this group of hackers operates in a legal “grey zone”. They find vulnerabilities in systems and publish them on different platforms so that they can be repaired as quickly as possible by those responsible. This distinguishes them, for example, from white hats, which report security vulnerabilities directly to those affected without going public. The public “denunciation” of IT vulnerabilities also reaches black hats.
Some hackers gained special attention through their activities. They are considered “inventors” of special hacking techniques. Some have penetrated highly secure government and corporate networks, or uncovered top secret documents. Here are a few of them:
The Father of Social Engineering: Through his social engineering techniques, Kevin Mitnick captured sensitive corporate information, source code, and database access. Among other things, he is said to have penetrated the US Department of Defense and the NSA networks several times. In the 1990s, the FBI declared him the “most wanted hacker in the world”. After spending several years in prison, Mitnick changed sides. Today, he works as a penetration tester and lecturer and as managing director of his own company, advises large companies on security issues relating to their systems.