The popular perception is that hacking is inherently criminal. Hackers with poor social skills lurk in basements across the world, itching to gain access to a bank account or steal identities. Individuals acquainted with computer culture understand that hacking, like so many other activities, occurs on a spectrum.
Not all hackers are intrinsically evil. Typically, when the term “hacker” is used in the mainstream media, it refers to cybercriminals. However, a hacker may be anybody; regardless of their intentions, he or she uses their understanding of computer software and hardware to overcome security measures on a computer, a device, or a network. Notably, hacking is not criminal until a hacker compromises a system without the owner’s consent. Nowadays, many businesses and government organizations hire hackers to assist them in securing their networks.
Hackers are classified according to the metaphorical “hat” they wear: “white hat,” “grey hat,” or “black hat.” The phrases originate from classic spaghetti westerns, in which the antagonist wears a black cowboy hat while the protagonist wears a white one. Two primary variables define the kind of hacker with whom someone is dealing: their goals and their compliance with the law.
Black hat hackers
Black hat hackers often possess considerable knowledge of how to penetrate computer networks and circumvent security measures. Additionally, they are responsible for creating malware, which is a technique for gaining access to computers.
Their main motive is often money or personal gain. They may, however, be engaged in cyber espionage or may just be hooked on the thrill of cybercrime. Black hat hackers vary from inexperienced individuals distributing malware to highly skilled individuals seeking to steal data—financial information, personal information, or login credentials. They are not only looking to steal that data; they are also looking to alter or destroy it. When they want personal gain, they steal credit card numbers or gather personal information for sale to identity thieves. When they hack for purely malevolent purposes, they may establish a botnet and use it to launch DDOS assaults on websites they dislike. They are referred to as cybercriminals. A black hat hacker who discovers a new, “zero-day” security vulnerability will either sell it on the black market to criminal groups or exploit it to infiltrate computer systems.
Certain hackers will steal whatever information they can get their hands on, whether it’s your sensitive health information or the notes they write in your app. The hackers are pursuing two objectives:
- Personal vendetta – they seek information on a certain person or entity in order to exploit it later. These hackers may be ex-boyfriends and girlfriends (or contractors hired by them) or others with a personal vendetta. Occasionally, a black hat hacker may seek information on a user or group of users in order to do damage to an entity, such as a company’s reputation.
- Money – among the simplest but also some of the most complex hacks, is one that enables a user to move money or credit money from one account to another. In a variety of methods, black hat hackers attack consumers, governments, and corporate financial data. They may even hack an unrelated app in order to get information that would enable them to access another app.
Additionally, they may attract black hat hackers for a variety of purposes, including facilitating physical crime, extortion, ransom, identity theft, or simply sheer curiosity.
White hat hackers
These are the nice folks; they choose to utilize their abilities for the greater good rather than evil. They are also referred to as “ethical hackers,” and they may be paid employees or independent contractors that work for businesses like different security experts who try to discover security vulnerabilities via hacking.
White hat hackers use the same techniques as black hat hackers, with one exception: they get permission from the system’s owner beforehand, making the whole process entirely legal. For businesses, white hat hackers conduct penetration testing, test in-place security solutions, and conduct vulnerability assessments. For ethical hacking, there may be courses, training, conferences, and certifications. When white hackers do penetration testing on a company, this action enables the business to strengthen its defenses. Additionally, if a security vulnerability is discovered, it may benefit a company by enabling them to fix its product and enhance its security before it is compromised. Numerous companies offer “bounties” or give prizes for disclosing such vulnerabilities, compensating white-hat hackers for their efforts.
White hat hackers may offer the following benefits to a business:
- An executive summary outlining the possible dangers to their information technology system.
- A prioritized list of suggested actions for mitigating risks and strengthening the system.
- A technical overview of current security vulnerabilities.
- A comprehensive report on the evaluation.
A small percentage of white-hat hackers are academics. These are computer artists who are less concerned with system security and more concerned with developing smart programs and aesthetically pleasing interfaces. Their objective is to enhance a system through modifications and enhancements. Academic hackers may range from casual amateurs to professional computer engineers pursuing doctorate degrees.
Inside the world of hackers
Hacking is a complicated realm, with its own culture, vocabulary, and social conventions. There is a continuum between ethical and legal behavior and unethical and criminal behavior, and many hackers work at various points along this continuum during their careers.