Monday, 12 March 2012

The term "white hat" in Internet slang refers to an ethical hacker, or a computer security expert, who specializes in penetration testing and in other testing methodologies to ensure the security of an organization's information systems. Ethical hacking is a term coined by IBM meant to imply a broader category than just penetration testing. White-hat hackers are also called "sneakers", red teams, or tiger teams.


One of the first instances of an ethical hack being used was a “security evaluation” conducted by the United States Air Force of the Multics operating systems for "potential use as a two-level (secret/top secret) system." Their evaluation found that while Multics was "significantly better than other conventional systems," it also had "... vulnerabilities in hardware security, software security, and procedural security" that could be uncovered with "a relatively low level of effort." The authors performed their tests under a guideline of realism, so that their results would accurately represent the kinds of access that an intruder could potentially achieve. They performed tests that were simple information-gathering exercises, as well as other tests that were outright attacks upon the system that might damage its integrity. Clearly, their audience wanted to know both results. There are several other now unclassified reports that describe ethical hacking activities within the U.S. military.[4] The idea to bring this tactic of ethical hacking to assess security of systems was formulated by Dan Farmer and Wietse Venema. With the goal of raising the overall level of security on the Internet and intranets, they proceeded to describe how they were able to gather enough information about their targets to have been able to compromise security if they had chosen to do so. They provided several specific examples of how this information could be gathered and exploited to gain control of the target, and how such an attack could be prevented. They gathered up all the tools that they had used during their work, packaged them in a single, easy-to-use application, and gave it away to anyone who chose to download it. Their program, called Security Analysis Tool for Auditing Networks, or SATAN, was met with a great amount of media attention around the world.


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