In 1995, the movie Hackers portrayed the eponymous computer wizards as rollerblading, pigtail-wearing, mysterious rebels that were “the only ones who can prevent a catastrophe unlike any the world has ever seen.” Twenty-one years later, hackers are still misunderstood, often portrayed as Guy Fawkes mask-wearing, mysterious rebels.
In a recent video segment, Bloomberg BNA Senior Legal Editor Jimmy H. Koo tries to clear up the misunderstanding and highlights five things to know about hackers.
First of all, not all hackers are bad or have nefarious goals, Koo said. According to David Brumley, the director of CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University, people need to stop equating hackers with criminals. There are, however, different kinds of hackers—there are black hat hackers that try to breach or bypass security measures and white hat hackers that try to prevent the black hat hackers.
Even among the “bad” hackers, they’re not all digital mercenaries, burning and looting online for money, Koo said. In reality, hackers do what they do for a variety of reasons—money, fame or ideologies. For example, some hackers working for the government—yes, governments have hackers too—are in charge of military operations. In the U.S. the U.S. Cyber Command is charge of centralizing military cyberspace operations.
Perhaps due to the negative connotations surrounding hackers, there’s a lack of focus on cybersecurity education in top computer science programs in the U.S., Koo said. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of talented hackers out there, looking to learn new skills. Las Vegas just hosted two, back-to-back hacker conventions—Black Hat USA and DEFCON 24—that included training sessions, briefings, meetings and demonstrations.
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