Popular culture has played an important role in opening up the world of hackers to the common person. Movies like Blackhat to tv shows like Mr. Robot and even games like Watchdogs 2 completely focused on hacking, while a lot of crime shows and detective movies relied on tech support/ethical hackers. This portrayal has been steadily increasing, while at the same time, these portrayals have fed a huge number of myths to the unsuspecting public.
While the concept of what hackers do, on both sides, is well understood by the general public these days, there are a lot of misconceptions as well. If you look at it, the portrayal has had both good and bad things to come out of it. Let us bust a few of those myths now. If you’ve heard about it, there was a popular show called Mr Robot which dealt with a hacktivist group. I’m not focusing on that, but I might use a few references from the show, which shouldn’t stop you from understanding the mention or getting the show spoiled.
1. All Hacking is Illegal
Hacking is a term that has got a huge negative value associated with it. Well, at least in the minds of the general public. If you decide to listen, reality tells an entirely different story.
The number of malicious hackers is lower when you stack them up against the number of hackers that work to fight them. The reason why these ethical hackers are unheard of is due to the media silence that happens when an issue is fixed, but at the same time, they create huge noise when a malicious hacker succeeds. This is why the number and importance of each successful patch go unnoticed unless it was to block out a malicious attack.
This huge number of ethical hackers are cybersecurity professionals hired by companies to legally hack their assets and get paid for them. The reason to do these legal hacks is to find out if there are any vulnerabilities on any of their digital assets. Being aware of such issues allow companies to fix them before a malicious hacker attacks their company.
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2. Hacking Requires Superhuman Typing Speeds
Almost every scene that involves a hacker in popular media shows them typing their fingers off to show an Access Granted popup to some secure server halfway around the world. This could not be any further from the truth when it comes to how hackers actually perform.
Hacking is something that requires focus and determination in huge amounts. It has nothing to do with how fast a person types. The tools used by a hacker takes their own sweet time to finish a task.
For those who have seen Mr. Robot, the preparation time that society takes for their hack is analogous to the focus and determination needed for a job.
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3. All Hackers are Expert Geniuses
The jargon thrown around by hackers when shown on media leads people to believe that they’re people who’ve been beside computers their entire life. While people at the level of such hackers who are part of a story are well-versed in computer knowledge and jargon, beginners need not be.
In this digital era, it is possible for someone without any IT knowledge to become a hacker. With the number of resources available online, a person can easily start from nothing and reach an intermediate level within a year. There are numerous platforms where noise can train its way up the ladder.
4. All Hackers Work Alone
The reason for this myth is when you compare the protagonists in a show and get the ratio of hackers to other characters, it is generally pretty low. This leads to people believing that hackers are lone wolves who get tasks done. But when you think about it, it leads to another misconception as part of this one – that every hacker is an expert on all kinds of systems. It makes sense if every hacker is a lone wolf as portrayed in media.
The truth is that hackers work in groups. Each hacker in the group is an expert in one particular area like social engineering, physical security, or network security. Sometimes hacktivist groups are hired by governments for carrying out cyber attacks on other nations.
A perfect example of this is from you guessed it, Mr Robot. The group’s society comprises of members who are all experts in different areas of hacking.
5. The Deep Web is Illegal and Dangerous
Infamously known as the dark web, the deep web is often thought of as the seedy underbelly of the internet where criminals reside and other shady behaviour happens. Yes, the deep web has its fair share of criminals and other shady activities.
For a service that grants anonymity, it is normal that shady behaviour happens there. But just because accessing the deep web requires browsers with special configurations like Tor, that doesn’t make it entirely illegal and dangerous.
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