The term hacker can have a positive or negative connotation depending on the definition. In a negative sense, hackers are people or groups who gain unauthorized access to websites by exploiting existing vulnerabilities. In a positive sense, hackers are computer professionals who discover the weak points in IT applications and help to resolve them. In a broad context, hackers are technophiles who enjoy finding solutions to complex tasks.
Unauthorized access to other computers or servers are punishable under the law worldwide. Such criminal acts have shaped the image of hackers until today. However, within the different scenarios, the individual players differ greatly. In principle, you can distinguish between three types of hackers. Even if most hackers cannot be exactly classified this way, it serves to provide a better understanding.
The group of white-hat hackers (analogous to white-hat SEO) use their extensive knowledge in the field of computer technology only in accordance with applicable laws and in accordance with their own established rules, which are often referred to as the hacker ethics. Members of this group often work for security agencies or IT security sections of companies. They run “pen tests” (penetration tests) or security scans to detect existing vulnerabilities in an IT infrastructure and handle them.
This group would be analogous to black hat SEO. They usually act with criminal intent. They are involved in data theft, manipulation of websites, or the deliberate damaging of websites. Thus, larger companies become the target of data theft every now and then, such as eBay. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) is a popular method of attack in the black hat scene, by which even a large server can be paralyzed.
In this group, it cannot always be clearly determined whether the actions are merely for criminal purposes or if there is a higher purpose behind it. A good example of this is the Anonymous group that attacked the payment service PayPal in 2010, to protest the fact that PayPal did not forward payments to WikiLeaks. The same group decided in November 2015 to fight against the Islamic State online. Anonymous itself has no fixed structure. The members of this hacker group collaborate in a decentralized fashion.
Successful access to a secured network is commonly referred to as a hack. “Hacking” was originally used in the field of wireless technology in the United States to denote improved radio performance of a radio by means of technical tricks. Another example of the use of the term is “growth hacking,” which means the use of new information technologies to achieve marketing objectives faster and at lesser expense.
Whereas hackers were often decried at the end of the last millennium in the general population as criminal geeks, the image of computer specialists has greatly improved. In the Internet age, professionals are in high demand in the field of IT security. And those who know how to crack a network will in turn also know how to protect networks. A very good example of the transformation of the hacker concept is the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). Dismissed for a long time as a reservoir for criminals, its members are now widely sought after experts when it comes to security issues on the Internet. In 2014, the annual meeting of the CCC was a highly frequented event in times of increased criticism concerning Internet monitoring.
Hacks is a term used in SEO circles quite often. However, in this sense it does not refer to intervention in networks, but rather to technical tips and tricks that assist in search engine optimization. These can be special methods to make the best use of a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics or proposals on how to get more traffic to your website. Instructions for customizing CMS or one’s source code are also frequently cited SEO hacks. In a negative sense, SEO hackers are those who manipulate websites to spread malicious software or spam. SEO hackers can in this case be put on the same level as Black Hat SEOs which not only violate webmaster guidelines, but also the law.