Black, White and….Grey
Have you ever heard of white, black and grey in respect to cyber security? Those are the colors that we relate to in cybersecurity–the three colors that describe the ‘hats’ worn by hackers. The colors harken back to the old west as portrayed on television and in film, with the good guys wearing white hats and the bad guys were wearing the black hats. In our digital world the same is true.
Black hats are the people that we hear about most of the time. They are the people that illegally hack into a digital system for numerous reasons. It could be financial gain like the hackers that targeted Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and Target. It could also be malcontents who just enjoy setting destruction spinning out of control on a computer system. Or, it could be those with political ideologies such as rogue states (we won’t mention any names) that are trying to gain some sort of political or military advantage over another nation.
White hats are the people you hear little about but deserve all the credit for the behind the scenes cyber work that keeps our digital systems up and working. They upgrade systems to prevent hackers from entering, they perform legal penetration testing to find flaws and vulnerabilities in a system, notify the operators of the system as to what they have found, and offer suggestions on how to patch the hole in the defenses before that vulnerability is exploited.
But as we all know, we do not live in a black and white world–there are often shades of grey as well. This brings us to a third hat color that even fewer people in the general public hear about–those who wear a grey hat. Now, just as in society, what is one persons cup of tea is not another’s. What some may view are good may be seen by others as bad. A case in point is the group known as Anonymous. Anonymous is a group of individuals–few people know who they are, how many, or where they are located–who perform acts that, depending on your personal feelings are good or bad. What they do–hack into systems–is clearly illegal which makes them ‘bad’. But, if you are served or supported by what they do–from your perspective, they are the ‘good guys’. Generally, they are against anything that seeks to restrain freedom of speech or activity. They supported, for example, WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement, and are seeking those they feel are responsible for the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. They are against Scientology, child porn sites, the KKK and a host of other people and organizations they feel are not contributing to the betterment of society. Some would place Anonymous in the category of ‘hacktivists’–those that hack digital systems based on an ideology–environmentalists for example. They feel that their hacking actions, while wrong or illegal, are electronic acts of civil disobedience to right a perceived wrong.
Now that you are more familiar with the three colors, you can how you view different groups such as Anonymous. Bear in mind, however, that white hats get praise, black hats may go to jail, and grey hats are what you view them to be.
Please follow us on Twitter!