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July 21st, 2011
11:21 PM ET

Color-coding China's hackers

When you think of the colors black, gray, red and white, what comes to mind?

Whatever your answer, it probably isn't "hackers." But that's precisely how people differentiate between the many types of hackers roaming the Internet in China.

"Black" hackers (黑客) are computer experts who use their skills to identify loopholes in networks for people to fix. They do not attack to steal data or cause lasting damage, but to construct a better system by exposing flaws.

"Gray" hackers (灰客), on the other hand, are those who do actively attack and invade. They act with malicious intent to infiltrate networks, steal information, and crack government websites for destructive purposes.

(It is interesting to note the difference between Chinese terms and what's used elsewhere, where a "black hat" hacker would be known as a "gray" hacker in China - and a "black" hacker in China is similar to a "white hat" hacker.)

"Red" hackers (红客), or "Honkers," refer to those who use their computer savvy for patriotic purposes. Their goal is to strengthen and defend domestic network safety, or attack anyone they view as China’s enemy. They first emerged in May 1999 after NATO bombs fell on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. In response, the group declared war on several U.S. government websites.

Finally, there are "white" hackers (白客). They are the hackers who no longer hack. Instead, they usually pursue a legitimate career in computer safety or consulting, putting their skills to use for corporate benefit.

And there you have it: An overview of Chinese hackers by color code.

So next time when you see these colors, hopefully you’ll remember which group of computer wizards they represent.

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Filed under: China • General • Technology
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Michael

    Funny, I thought they would all be called yellow hackers.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:03 am | Reply
  2. ken

    I am a "white" hacker.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:11 am | Reply
    • Ipul

      Sorry, i just dont get it. How many of china-bashing guys in this blog have actually lived in china and sepkon to some of easy-to-be manipulated chinese. I have for 20 years and their sentiments towards west, maybe its hard to believe, are genuine. Call it victimhood complex or anyother fancy word from ur psycho-analysis lexicon. Who doesn't? That is how hitler and his nazi party won the popularity after ww1 or america got to invade iraq with fabricated evidence of wmd program.Those feelings in germany are still popping up now and then everytime america, france , england or other allied countries make some commemorations. Why cant they do the same for those who sacrificed their lives in defense of germany and its cause, be it morally right or wrong.( on second thought, who is qualified to judge morality) By the way japan has been doing that for the past fifty years with tacit permission of their american protector. How is that different with chinese. Its true, most chinese dont have freedom of expression and ccp is a brutal regime and selectively let some nationalistic rant come out so they can obtain some sort of leverage in the negotiation. Who doesnt, be it democratic liberals or tyrannic dictators? It s all politics baby. If u are so cynical, perhaps u should watch zeitegist in which the director spends lengthy time telling audience how respective american goverments forged evendence and manipulated public opinin at the request of british and major arm makers to get it involved in the two wars. I dont know if they are all true but some have been backed up by recently declassified files, unfortunately after too long. If u need more examples, just look at those two wars america is waging.I am offended that the author of this article and other bloggers seem to insinuate that only regimes with different systems other than america's have tendency to utilise those tactics since they dont command legitimate mandate, somehow i have to inform u that chinese people do feel hurt at the hstory of 100 years humiliation at the hands of western powers and japanese atrocities, even those liberal locked in jail by ccp. So ur suggestion that all u have heard or seen over past a couple weeks are sth purely manufactured by ccp, is not only ourageous,but racist.Besides, in terms of manipulation tactics, usa is probaboy ranked no.1, sharing the lead with its isreal client. If u dont believe me, just ask my friend shaqqni and his 50 relatives in egypt and palestain.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:10 am | Reply
  3. China

    Every country has hackers, is this strange?
    Why CNN can not give the world eventually one Single evidence that china's hackers have attacked USA?
    One evidence is enough!
    CNN has reported about chinese hackers for years.
    but no Single evidence has been made.
    This are some US medias,
    Sometimes like german Nazis which believe:
    Repeating Lies 1000 times is the truth.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:17 am | Reply
  4. xybr0xym0r0n

    Still they are Hacker, They can do dirty job whenever they like, because they are hacker

    July 22, 2011 at 2:47 am | Reply
  5. Jason

    Funny, US has hackers why CNN did not concern?

    July 22, 2011 at 5:39 am | Reply
  6. zhongming

    Boxun, a site that piblished the first anonymous call for jasmine revolution in China early this year has been attacked unstopped for a few months by now. The attacks, according to the IP addresses of the sources, are from inside of China. Yesterday, their server was once again dead for a while.

    Only the Chinese government has the resources to coordinate this kind of long term, expensive, well organized, and very sophisticated attacks. The hakers are surely no individual hakers. And they are not working for any "patriotic" motivitions. They are working for money, by selling their souls to the communist regime.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:47 am | Reply
  7. zhongming

    Forget to mention, Boxun is based on USA.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:52 am | Reply
  8. china is the enemy

    The strange thing is the US is not overtly retaliating against this agressor. The yellow fools are pushing for war. Time to get rid of the communist regime once and for all! USA! USA! USA!

    July 22, 2011 at 7:01 am | Reply
  9. Cyndie James

    I don't like hackers. I have been hacked many times and all of my love email, and other secrets have been compromised and it is just a matter of time before everything is in the public doman.

    July 22, 2011 at 7:32 am | Reply
  10. Ray

    @China I think CNN is simply reporting what was said by US government officials. And most likely, the US government make such claims because of server logs, which clearly indicate country of origin (unless they are hidden some how). If you have an issue with what was said here, you should look at the US government instead of CNN; I don't think CNN has "fabricated" these claims as they have been made by other news agencies.

    That said, note what link you are reading. It says "blogs.cnn.com"; while it is part of CNN, you've enter the "blog" section of CNN. No one should be reading this site and expect that it is the same as the CNN main site. Likewise with "cnngo", which is by CNN readers.

    July 22, 2011 at 7:53 am | Reply
  11. visitor

    AS FAR AS I KNOW ,BLACK HACKERS IN CHINA ARE THOSE WHO HAVE DESTRUCTIVE PURPOSES,LIKE IN ELSEWHERE. GRAY HACKER IS NOT A CONCEPT PREVALENT IN CHINA.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:09 am | Reply
  12. Tom

    Shame on you poor layman who don;t know how to use computer except for skype calls.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  13. Noel

    Wow, you guys get really angry about an informational article. It's amusing to see your under-used minds race to make this some kind of international incident.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  14. kimberly Nichols

    I do not know how to hack. I eat chinese food. Determined. Dependable, and Dedicated.

    Good day MRS. TT

    July 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  15. dohn

    The assessment by an antivirus company (forget which one) that about 65% of the computers in china are infected with a virus. The assessment makes sense because many can't afford to buy the Microsoft operating system and so use pirated versions. Only a foolish 'hacker' would attack something from his own IP address, so they use the infected computer as a hop point. Maybe it's in his/her home country, maybe not.

    Having a Chinese wife, i've been witness to how strong their sense of nationalism can be. I also know that at the very least, there are many Chinese who hack the unsuspecting in china to sell their online currency (game) and chat profiles that gain in value the longer a person is online and logged on.

    China has also been very good taking a concept or technology and using that to make something near identical and brand it as their own.

    It's not too much of a stretch to consider that some of China's corporations and .gov might be involved in some of the things the US gov suspects.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  16. Mac

    We keep hearing about chinese hackers but we all know that the U.S. and many western countries engage in hacking though their spy agencies, so what.
    In China colour references with special meaning are part of their culture.
    Interesting bit of information about hackers.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  17. Chinapride

    @Michael – funny, I thought you would be called as a racist parasite.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  18. aznology

    hackers are good no matter what they help us improve our critically flawed systems

    July 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  19. Wong

    Obviously, the pro chinese reader would interpreted this as way of racist reporting...

    Have anyone read a same piece of article written in chinese? Are we not informative enough to write about US hackers attacking Chinese?

    Why hackers target US? not Europe, not Japan? You said it yourself "US and many western countries hack through their spy", and you think Japan/Korea/Singapore doesn't have it?

    I personally feel, pro hackers who commented above, are the racist ones because you are not against the "action", you are against the "nation"

    July 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  20. AEIOU

    Rupert Murdoch is a hacker ?

    July 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Reply
  21. China

    Why these ignorant US-people still believe such lies,
    how many times should the world still repeat that:
    IP-Addresses say NOTHING?
    IP-Addresses came from China
    why US-Hackers can not first compromise the chinese computers and then use chinese computers to attack USA?
    Why not?
    Why?
    Can you US-people say Why?

    July 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  22. zhongming

    Mac: there is no doubt that other countries doing hacking as well. But the difference is, that the primary purpose for the Chinese hacking is to quell diferent political voices. If the Chinese government gets its hands on e-mail contents and the owner's information, for instance, many people would be in real danger, including those Chinese living oversea.

    July 23, 2011 at 5:35 am | Reply
  23. Mike Smith

    Chinese human rights abuses:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbDSOmTWU7U&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gohXIkN8bg&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyRSyYMhW2E&w=640&h=390]

    July 23, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Reply
    • Greyce

      Hello, this is a blogengine weoblg right? Can you take a look why it would seem i can't get almost any comments accepted on your blog site? I really mean i am having a great read here and I just try to provide a little postive suggestions on your blogposts I found some interesting threads here btw.. Keep up the fantastic work!

      September 8, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
  24. n1tr0b

    In China, there's a different story

    August 2, 2011 at 8:48 am | Reply
  25. simon

    We take eyes on all color hacker find that voice always is good , but we should to clarify facts with lies..

    August 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  26. nl20051405

    So "Color revolution" may take place instead of the digital revolutions.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:32 am | Reply
  27. Celeste

    Come on guys, you can do better. This looks just like (another) an iohnpe 4 copy. And with Apple so angry these days, I expect them to sue everyone that make products (and software for that matter) that resembles theirs.

    September 10, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply

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