Cyber crime is any illegal activity that involves the use of a computer, network, or networked device. Spreading computer viruses, performing unauthorized electronic funds transfer, online bulling, privacy violation, theft and sale of personal and corporate data, sharing copyrighted information (such as e-books and computer programs) cyber extortion, ATM fraud, identity theft, and denial of service attacks, and spamming (sending unauthorized emails) are some of the illegal activities that cyber criminals do.
Hacking is one of the activities that fall within the domain of cyber crime. Hacking involves finding weaknesses in a computer system or network and exploiting these weaknesses to gain access to personal or business data. Hacking can, for example, involve using a password cracking algorithm to get access to a computer system.
Today, computers are virtually indispensable in running a successful business. To facilitate communication with other businesses and parties, computers need to be networked. Networking computers exposes them to the outside world and predisposes them to hacking. When a system is hacked, the hacker can commit fraudulent acts such as privacy invasion, fraud, and theft of personal or corporate data among other things. Every year, many organisations lose millions of dollars to cyber crime. It is vital for businesses to protect themselves against such attacks.
From the definition of hacking, a hacker is a person who finds and exploits weakness in computer systems and/or networks to get access to the systems or networks. Usually, hackers are skilled computer programmers who have knowledge of computer security.
Types of Hackers
There are different types of hackers based on the intent of their actions.
A cracker (black hat) is a hacker who invades computer systems for personal gain. The intention of the cracker is usually to violate privacy rights, steal corporate data, and transfer funds from bank accounts.
An ethical hacker (white hat) is a hacker who gains access to systems with the aim of identifying and fixing security weaknesses. They may also perform vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. Ethical hacking is legal as it aims to identify weaknesses and come up with countermeasures that protect the weaknesses identified. Ethical hackers must get written permission from the owner of the computer system or network before hacking, protect the privacy of the organisation they are hacking, report their findings transparently, and should inform software and hardware vendors of the identified weaknesses.
A grey hat is a hacker who falls between the black hat hacker and ethical hacker. The intent of this type of hacker is to identify weaknesses and reveal them to the owner of the system.
Script kiddies are hackers who use already made tools to gain access to computer systems. They are usually have little or no computer programming skills.
A hacktivist is a hacker whose intention is to spread social, political, or religious messages by hacking websites and leaving the message on the website that has been hijacked.
A phreaker is a hacker who identifies and exploits weaknesses in telephones (rather than in computers).
Most cyber crime hacks are committed through the Internet. Others are executed using online chatting applications or mobile phones (via sms).