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The Confessions of A White Hat Hacker

Using downloaded hacker utilities, Jude probes his network - and goes undetected

By Jude Thaddeus
December 4, 2000 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Last week, I spent most of my time installing Linux and a few white hat applications from hacker Web sites: Firewalk, Nmap, Sniffit, Swatch and Tripwire. This week, I've had a bit of a chance to play around with them.
This "white hat" nomenclature confused me when I first heard it. White hat is a fairly common term for people who hack legitimately - security staff, researchers and so on. By contrast, black hat hackers hack maliciously. Basically, white hats are the good guys; black hats are the bad guys. Gray hats are somewhere between the two, and nobody knows where Red Hat Linux fits in with all this.

THIS WEEK'S GLOSSARY
Intrusion detection software: Specialized security programs that monitor log-on attempts, security logs and other information to try to detect unauthorized attempts to access the corporate network.

TCP/IP fingerprinting: The process of analyzing the TCP/IP protocol stack of a target host computer on a network to discover its operating system and version.

Ping: This utility for TCP/IP-based networks sends a query packet to a target network user or host address and waits for a reply to confirm its presence on the network.

LINKS

The PacketStorm Web site bills itself as an online security library. Follow this link to download the Firewalk program.

Visit this hacker Web site to download the Nmap program.

This link takes you to the Sniffit packet-sniffer utility, available from Proditti Network Security Co. in Parma, Italy.

Visit this site to download Swatch, a log analyzer, and Tripwire, a file-integrity checker program.

I'm told the terms come from the early Western movies. Because the movies were filmed in black and white, the chase scenes tended to get a bit confusing, until someone decided to give the good guys white hats and the bad guys black hats. Anyway, back to Linux.
Frills and Thrills
Nmap impressed me. It's simple, it's powerful, and it does exactly what it says it does: It maps your network. The author, who goes only by the name Fyodor, even includes a short but well-written HTML manual in a choice of five languages. The program is freeware, so you've got to admire the amount of work that he's put into it.
Nmap runs ping sweeps to find out what machines are connected to your local network, a port scan to find out what services each machine is running and TCP/IP fingerprinting to find out what operating system each is running. The result is a log file giving you a reasonably complete list of what's on your network and what it's doing. That's useful information both for a


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