4. Attacks and Attackers
Attacks, as well as the attackers, come in
many different shapes and forms. Before we go through the
most common types of attacks, we'll first have a look at who
the attackers are and what their motivation is. Please note
that the descriptions below are used and abused often more
incorrect than correctly, and are not defined in any standard.
The term hacker is used to define someone who overcomes limitations
in hard and software by using clever solutions, often to 'problems'
the typical computer user doesn't even know of. A hacker wants
to know the ins-and-outs of a system and go even further.
Curiosity and competition are often part of the motivation
of a hacker. In terms of security the term hacker is often
used incorrectly to describe malicious individuals who gain
unauthorized access to network resources. The hacker community
has made several attempts to take back the word 'hacker' by
providing alternatives to define those that do have malicious
intentions, such as 'cracker'. These attempt have largely
failed, because today it is quite common to use the word hacker
when talking about someone who breaks into computers. When
a security system is breached by someone who cracked passwords,
it's said the system is 'hacked'.
A cracker is a more proper term to describe someone with malicious
intentions who gains unauthorized access to network resources
or software. They crack passwords, code, and software
to gain unauthorized access to a system in order to steal,
alter, or destroy data.
These are considered the bad hackers, the crackers. Their
motivation includes money, recognition ("Look at me,
I hacked the NSA!", "I told you Microsoft Windows
has more back doors than the Matrix!"), improving security,
and various criminal intentions.
These are considered the good guys, hackers with a certain
level of ethics. Their goal is to improve security and create
awareness. They are often employed by security companies to
work as security auditors and perform penetration testing.
Black hats turned white who use their black hat skills
for a white hat job.
These are the amateurs, the wannabees. They usually don't
have a lot of resources nor knowledge about the target, nor
advanced hacking skills, but they can be disastrous nevertheless.
Especially when they play with the tools written by more knowledgeable
hackers and crackers.
Intelligence agencies who want to stay on top of things
usually have a department with extremely skilled hackers and
crypto-analysts. They have the resources, the money, and usually
know a lot about the target.
The not-so-trustworthy employees who are already connected
to the network which gives them a head start if they have
malicious intentions. Attacks by ex-employees who want revenge
or settle a score are quite common. That's why it is important
to disable the user account of an employee as soon as possible.
Preferably, although often not possible, as soon as the employee
knows he or she is going to get fired. Also employees without
an ill agenda can do lot of damage. Do to improper configurations,
users can be given the access and the rights to damage resources
in the network. A lot of times this is done unintentionally.
The user accidently deletes, moves, or changes company resources
or stumbles on private information about other employees or
customers (i.e. salaries, social security numbers) when browsing
the file server.
This type of attacker is usually out to make a political statement
create awareness about certain issues. Examples are human
and animal rights activists. They often don't have an extreme
amount of skills or knowledge about the target, but they may
have a lot of resources. A common attack from hacktivists
is a DDOS attack performed by gathering enough people with
the same ideals who have a computer with Internet connection.
Scum of the earth who attempt to cause chaos and worse, often
for political or religious reasons. Unfortunately, they have
a lot of resources and skills, and know the target very well.
L33t hax0rs (Elite hackers)
Usually script kiddies with an Unreal Tournament, or
similar online multiplayer first-person-shooting game, addiction.
In case they do have any skills they usually waste them on
cracking games to give them an unfair advantage. Their motivation
is typically to win by cheating and showing off the little
amount of skills they have.