The hackers who use their creative computing skills for the good of society rather than for malicious reasons. For example, in the mid-1990s, the so-called anti-criminal activist segment of the hacker community, known at the CyberAngels, started to appear online. Then and now the CyberAngels scan the Web 24-hours a day, seven days a week, fighting against child pornography and cyberstalking.
In the hacking community, other White Hat labels are prevalent. For example, the Elite hackers are the gifted segment, recognized by their peers for their exceptional hacking talent. Elite hackers, who live by the White Hat Ethic, tend to avoid deliberately destroying data or otherwise damaging computer systems or networks.
In recent years, the term “elite” has been amended to include not only the generally accepted “principled tester of limits” but also “the high-tech saboteur detector.” These computer forensic investigators often use specialized software capturing what is known as a bit-stream image of a computer’s hard drive, including every piece of data from the first to the last sectors. Even deleted files provide useful forensic information. Although most computer users realize that anyone can delete a file with a mouse click, forensic computer investigators know that the deleted file may still be there even after the computer says it is gone.
Forensic computer investigators realize that the Delete command just alters the way that a file is treated on a hard drive’s table of contents. Thus, the space can be re-used but the information is still in it. So, until the computer needs the space and writes over the file (just as someone can record over information on a tape), not much has changed. The operating system will ignore the file’s existence as long as it has not been overwritten. It is for this reason that commercial software known as KillDisk Professional wipes disks clean and deletes files forever.
Finally, with the mainstreaming of the Internet has grown a political fever among White Hat hackers known as “hacker activism.” Hacker activists, or hacktivists, pair their activism needs with their hacker prowess to push for free speech and international human rights. The operations commonly used in White Hat hacktivism to further a cause include searching for information by browsing the Web; making Websites and posting information on them; transmitting e-publications and email to other interested parties; and using the Internet to form coalitions, discuss issues, and plan and coordinate activities.
It is not uncommon for White Hats in adulthood to have engaged in cracking incidents in their youth, though they may not always admit it. One case in point is that of Anthony Zboralski, whose cracking exploits in 1994 targeting the FBI’s computers made him the poster boy for “social engineering” in France, his home country. In 2005, a decade after his highly reported exploits, Zboralski is the principal of Bellua Asia Pacific, a Jakarta-based IT security company whose clients include Air France, Allianz, and some of the country’s top banks and government agencies.
Saunders, J. Computers: Deleted Files Often Forgotten, But Not Always Gone. The Globe and Mail, November 2004, p. B12; Schell, B.H., Dodge, J.L., with S.S. Moutsatsos. The Hacking of America: Who’s Doing It, Why, and How. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002; M. Taufiqurrahman. Former Hacker Turns Over New Leaf. [Online, March 21, 2005.] The Jakarta Post Website. http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailfeatures.asp?fileid=20050321.SO6&irec=5.