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February 4, 2015updated 23 Aug 2016 9:00am

5 hacker myths you really should stop believing

Due out in a few weeks, Blackhat is a new movie looking at a case of high-level computer hacking – but how accurate is it?

By Ellie Burns

Lookout, your friendly neighbourhood hacker-for-good, has taken a closer look, and at first glance it’s good news with the film steering clear of tired old tropes.

Lookout’s co-founder and chief technology officer Kevin Mahaffey has created a list of the top 5 hacker myths you really should stop believing.

1. All hackers are criminals

Not the case. If you want to categorize them, there are three major terms used to describe hackers:

1) White hat: These are the guys "hacking for good," using their talents to protect the Internet, infrastructure, and users.
2) Black hat: These are the "bad" guys, who use a variety of tactics to break into privileged systems, steal data, or wreak havoc.
3) Grey hat: These are the guys that fall in the middle. They might have good intentions, but aren’t using the most, let’s say, legitimate means to achieve their goals.

But the reality is, the term hacker was first used to describe a person who saw a system being used for one purpose and was able to manipulate it to be used for another. In some cases they break things to make them better. They’re MacGyvers, in a way, and aren’t always looking to use systems for malicious means.

2. All hackers listen to techno and code in their parents basement

Sorry, they might listen to techno, they might live in their parent’s house, they might also have a dog and a family or a house in the country. And no, they don’t all have neckbeards.

3. All hackers break into your stuff all the time

As it comes to black hats, actually, you oftentimes are just giving them your information. It’s called phishing and it’s a social engineering trick used to compel you to hand over your personal information and login credentials. Bad guys oftentimes find it easier to just ask you for your information than to break into your account.

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4. All hackers are male

No, not everyone who considers themselves a hacker is also a man. Just look on forums like Hacker News and you’ll find plenty of women who consider themselves hackers. Indeed, step into one of the largest hacker conferences in the world, Def Con, and you’ll see a rising number of female attendees.

5. All hackers know Anonymous or are a part of Anonymous

Not every breach or black hat hacker is associated with Anonymous. Those who actually fall under the umbrella of Anonymous oftentimes reference themselves as "hacktivists" or activist hackers. Oftentimes when a hack is reported, many people are quick to suggest that Anonymous could be behind it, but that’s not normally the case. There are many hackers, individuals, and groups around the world who hack for reconnaissance, espionage, oh, and to improve systems and make them stronger.

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