The good, the bad, and the grey
Hacking is not always black and white. Not all hackers are cybercriminals, but all cybercriminals are hackers. Typically, the word hacker has been synonymous with criminal behavior. But not all hackers commit crimes. Hackers are highly skilled in programming, social engineering, or computers and networks. Some hackers break into systems for personal or monetary gain. As a result, hackers create the need for cybersecurity within the technology community.
But there are those who dedicate their lives to stopping the criminals from stealing money or data through the use of hacking. They employ a “fight fire with fire” mentality and use many of the same tactics as the would-be hackers. There are three main types of hackers, characterized by the metaphorical “hat” that they wear. The three types of hackers are “black hat,” “white hat” and “grey hat.” These terms are derived from old western movies where the bad guy always wears a black hat, and the good guy wears a white hat. Grey hats are in between and sometimes break the laws to find vulnerabilities.
Black Hat Hackers
Black hat hackers lack empathy. They are malicious computer users who violate system and network security. Black hats will exploit vulnerabilities, cause system damage and steal user data. Subsequently, black hat hackers break into systems for personal, political or monetary gain. Hackers who have a political motivation are referred to as “hacktivists.” They are generally involved in criminal activity. A black hat does not care if they cause damage to a system or hurt someone by stealing data or finances. But financial gain is not always the only motive behind a black hat hacker. They may use their skills for hacktivism or pushing political agendas.
Inexperienced hackers called script kiddies use existing programs and spread malware to infect systems. They lack the technical knowledge to write their own software and generally do not even know how they work. Experienced Hackers are often responsible for writing these programs and malware. Additionally, black hats often employ the use of social engineering, doxing and pretexting to manipulate users into granting access to accounts or systems. Black hat hackers often lack empathy and show no remorse for the damage they leave in their wake. Furthermore, black hat hackers may also employ the use of cyberbullying or cyberstalking to terrorize their targets into compliance.
White Hat Hackers
White hat hackers are security professionals who protect systems from security breaches. Often referred to as “Ethical Hackers,” white hats bring awareness to the tactics and exploits used by black hat hackers. Instead of breaking into systems to steal money or data, they make their money either paid employees or freelance contractors. White hat hackers are security specialists who hack into systems in order to secure them from black hats.
Employing the same methods as black hats, they use these skills to secure systems and circumvent criminal hackers. The only difference between the two is that white hats have the permission of system owners to break in. Penetration testing is used to find vulnerabilities before the criminals do. White hat hackers are often holders of various certifications. They may even possess a college degree in computer science and cybersecurity.
Grey Hat Hackers
Grey hats are neither good nor bad. They operate “in the grey area” of computer hacking. Often referred to as “bug bounty hunters,” grey hats will break into a system without the owner’s knowledge and then report the findings back to them. They then will request a finder’s fee or “bug bounty” in exchange for their findings. Grey hats operate much the same way as a white hat, but they will sometimes break the law in an attempt to do the right thing. What separates them from black hats is the fact that grey hats will not exploit the vulnerabilities they find. Grey hats are just looking to get paid for what they do. Grey hat hackers operate without the knowledge of the owner, which is still considered illegal.
Hacking is not always black and white.
Hacking is not always black and white. And not all hackers are created equally. Black hat hackers are malicious in intent and lack empathy. These hackers will break the law and cause damage to systems in an attempt to exploit for personal gain. White hat hackers are security professionals who do not break the law. These ethical hackers generally either work for the system owner or have their permission to break in. Grey hat hackers operate in the middle ground and do not have the malicious intent of black hats. They are often referred to as bug bounty hunters and may violate the law in an attempt to discover vulnerabilities. Both grey hat and white hat hackers do it for the common good. Subsequently, neither seek to exploit the vulnerabilities that they find. Not all hackers are cybercriminals, but all cybercriminals are hackers.
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IamThePatRatt – The Bipolar Hacker.