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.