Ethics And Methods Of Hacking Computer Science Essay

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Simply, a hacker is someone that breaks into a computer by accessing administrative controls. Hacking has been partly traced back to the mid to late sixties where a group called 'Yippies' (Youth International Party), a counter culture movement, published a newsletter named the Technological Assistance Program. More sources can be traced back to the early seventies where more beneficial forms of hacking, including MIT labs and the 'homebrew' club. This later resulted in early computers and the opensource movement.

There are a lot of websites that can teach people hacking, mostly white hat hacking. However, there are many other illegal underground websites that teach hacking for malicious use. Some of these sites sell illegally modded routers and USB broadband.

Hacking Ethics

There are three main hacker ethics, White hat, Grey hat and Black hat. White hat is the use of hacking for non-malicious reasons, such as testing security system. After they have learnt enough, many 'white hats' use their skill and knowledge for legitimate ways, such as becoming a security consultant. Large company's may employ a team of people, known as 'tiger teams' or red teams, to test the security on their servers and computer systems and implement ways of preventing hackers from gaining access to the information the computer systems contains.

Black hat hackers use their knowledge of hacking for only malicious means. The ways they do this is by breaking into other computers, servers and systems without authorisation. Black hats may also use technology such as computers, phone systems and networks for vandalism, credit card fraud, identity fraud, piracy or other illegal activities. Reasons for people to behave in this way are for profit, for fun or as part of a social cause. When they have broken through the security systems they may modify or delete data without authorisation. Black hats may also distribute computer viruses, worms, malwares, rootkits and send spam e-mails through botnets. Other uses could be the removal of copy restriction methods. These might be serial numbers, hardware keys, date checks, cd checks and other software annoyances such as adware.

Grey hats are in-between the white and black extremes. They may consider themselves grey hats because they may penetrate through a computer system without authorisation, but then they patch up the hole they created without damaging the system.

Other than the main 3 ethics, there are also two other minor groups: Script kiddie and Hacktavist. A Script kiddie is a non-computer expert that uses software programmed by professionals to hack into other computers. They usually have very little understanding and are known as the 'outcasts' of the hacker community.

A Hacktavist is a hacker that uses technology to broadcast a social, ideological, religious or political message. Hacktavists mainly deface other websites to get their message across, for this reason hacktavism is used for cyber terrorism.

Hacking Methods

Hackers use many different ways of gaining access into peoples computers: security exploit, vulnerability scanner, password cracking, packet sniffer, spoofing attack, rootkit, social engineering, trojan horse, virus, worm and key loggers.

A vulnerability scanner is an application or software that scans computers for weaknesses in the security or firewall. A good example of a vulnerability scanner is a port scanner. A scanner searches for active IP addresses or open ports, the scanner will make a report detailing the IP address and port number that was open.

Password cracking is usually done by continuingly guessing different passwords until succeeded. However, password cracking maybe done by recovering passwords from data that has been stored or transmitted by a computer. This method of password cracking maybe done because the user has forgotten his/her password, to get access to a system illegally or system administrators may try it to crack easy passwords.

A packet sniffer is a software that intercepts and logs traffic over a network, this can be done wired or wirelessly. On a wired network, the hacker needs access to one of the computers to capture the traffic. Network administrators may use these to check that users aren't sending or receiving things they shouldn't be. On wireless networks, someone can get access to the network and capture the traffic on a channel. Packet sniffers can be used to spy on other network users and gain sensitive information, such as passwords and bank/credit card details.

A rootkit is a number of tools that enable administrator access to a computer or network. A black hat hackers usually installs rootkits on a computer after getting user control of a computer by cracking passwords or using vulnerability scanners. Once the rootkit is installed, it allows the hacker to mask intrusion and get administrator access to the computer and possibly other computers on the network. Rootkits can only be completely deleted by formatting the computer hard drive and re-installing the operating system.

A trojan horse is a program that says it's doing one thing but really doing another. They are mainly used for setting-up back doors so that computer hackers can access the computer at a later date.

Examples of Computer Hacking

One of the most recent, major cases of computer hacking was in 2001 and 2002 where