For years hacker secs have been relatively small and tight knit. Most have initiation rituals, similar to what you would see in a street gang or fraternity. For a black hat or grey hat group, the reasons behind this are fairly obvious. Since the activities of a black hat group are seldom legal, they need to be more selective about who they allow in. Often times this involves a hazing or initiation ritual to weed out the government spies and to quantify the initiate’s talents and abilities.
White hat hackers also tend to be quiet and selective about their activities and group involvement. This may seem counterintuitive, as they seemingly have nothing to hide, but there are subtleties that are still very sensitive. For example, let’s say a collective of white hats are working on a popular open source program that powers banking software. If the software is discovered to have a large vulnerability, that information must be kept secret and safe until a patch can be released and distributed to the businesses.
The differences between white, grey and black start to blur when looking at a collective of individuals. The mentality, knowledge, and operations of these secs tend to be very similar in many ways. Regardless of alignment they all tend to remain nameless, communicate in secret, and share their knowledge with only select individuals which they trust.
Each hacker sec is built up by like-minded individuals and often shares a core theme, goal or agenda. Some are formed for a specific mission, and others exist as a hobbyist playground. The most famous of secs, in recent years, are: anonymous, lizard squad, lulzsec, Syrian electronic army, chaos computer club, level seven, Tarh Andishan, TOA and Cicada 3301.
Anonymous is one of the newest and definitely the most known hacker group today. As a completely decentralized, anonymous, and open group, anon accepts any hacker or cracker that wants to be involved. Furthermore, the group proposes missions and calls to action that are opt-in only. With anon’s adoption of democracy and open doors, they have positioned themselves as a group of vigilantes and most of the general public praises their activities. Anon’s actions can rarely be labelled as anything but black hat, yet many people celebrate the group for executing attacks. The reasoning behind this is similar to the reasoning behind wars: one organization aims to defend or destroy another based upon validation of moral alignment. In the case of anonymous, they are generally well received because of their attacks against organizations that are deemed evil or corrupt such as ISIS, Westboro Baptist Church or even the US government.
A small team of renegade black hats, Lizard Squad has become well known for their attacks against Xbox Live, Playstation Network and the Malaysia Airlines website. This sec represents the most common form of collective, as the members are likely to know each other on a personal level and keep their doors closed to new members. Their attacks have rarely seemed to have a purpose of financial gain, but rather for fame and pride.
Similar to Lizard Squad, the lulzsec commits their attacks mostly for public recognition, or as they say, “for the lulz.” This group has claimed responsibility for very notable attacks against the US Senate, CIA and the AntiSec hacks alongside Anonymous. The most impressive thing about lulzsec is that the organization consisted of less than ten members, most of which were only teenagers or young adults.
Syrian Electronic Army
The SEA was created to retaliate against businesses that were promoting Anti-Syrian media. This group of roughly 20 members attacked news sites such as The Onion, New York Times, and many smaller media outlets. Many of their victims suffered irreversible damage and data loss to their websites. Most notably, was their hijacking of the twitter account belonging to the Associated Press. Once on the account, they published a tweet stating that the White House had been attacked and Obama was injured, which resulted in a $136 billion dollar drop in the S & P 500 financial index!
Chaos Computer Club
Not many white hat secs get the same amount of press as the malicious ones, but CCC has managed to grab a few headlines and make the world a better place with their actions. This Germany based, hacker group has been around since 1981 and since that time has made many public demonstrations to educate and protect against security risks. Their most renowned demonstrations include robbing a bank, cloning an GSM cell phone card, and publishing the fingerprints of the German Minister of the Interior; each to educate the public on issues inherent in otherwise trusted technology.
With a reputation for malicious attacks against banks, hotels and even NASA, L7 was a formidable group for about a year in the late 90’s. Unlike more private secs such as Lizard Squad or lulzsec, Level Seven had an open door policy for allowing new hackers into the group. Ultimately, this open door policy is what likely lead to their downfall. The group was busted very quickly by the FBI in early 2000.
We are nearing a day when wars will be waged entirely online. Evidence of this exists with groups like Tarh Andishan. After a worm, named Stuxnet, wreaked havoc on Iran’s network, the government responded by creating this hacker group of approximately 20 elite crackers. Since their formation, the group has targeted government and business entities alike to wage war under “Operation Cleaver.” So far the damages have been highly destructive and successful with notable damages being done to the United States Navy and Saudi Aramco.
Tailored Access Operations
Of course the United States National Security Organization (NSA) would have their own internal hacking group. State sponsored groups and government intelligence organizations exist in most first world countries. TAO has some of the greatest talent and abilities in the world, often times recruiting from the US military or even offering bailouts for highly skilled hackers that have been caught and arrested. To date, they are known to have captured incredible amounts of data, create powerful worms, and have even leveraged federal national security laws to force tech giants like Google and Apple to allow them backdoor access to consumer devices. Among other things, TAO represents George Orwell’s Big Brother like no other organization on the planet, with capabilities of turning on and tapping into mobile devices to access the microphone and geolocation. They have even been rumored to have invented and injected secret decryption techniques for some of the most common encryption software and programs around the world.
Perhaps one of the most mysterious and interesting of all hacker groups is Cicada 3301. This group is only known due to the cryptic puzzles they release to the public to recruit highly talented individuals. The puzzles involve an incredibly deep understanding of cryptography, research, operating systems and programming and clues have been published in mediums across the globe from print to bootable USB drives. Many speculate that Cicada is backed by the NSA, CIA, Darpa and many other national security organizations. Regardless of the speculation, not a single person has been able to confirm the acceptance of the recruits or the organization’s true purpose.