Everybody agrees on who is wearing the black hats: the malicious hackers who break into supposedly secure sites to steal vital data such as credit card information, launch denial-of-service attacks or release destructive viruses. But with the proliferation of e-commerce activity, a new breed of hacker has come along, the self-styled "white hats," who dedicate themselves to identifying and exploiting flaws in the security features of supposedly impregnable software systems. These self-styled Robin Hoods of the information age have seen themselves as crusaders for public safety, contradicting the corporate world's assurances that their Web-based commercial enterprises are Fort Knoxes of security."

So called "white hat" hackers are not a "new breed" by any stretch of the imagination. These "self-styled Robin Hoods" have been around for decades by the classic definition, and over half a decade by the more widely used definition of 'hacker'.

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