There are 3 main categories of hackers in the world. The big differences between these hackers have to do with their intentions and their hacking knowledge. In this blog, we will cover the three main types of hackers which are: Black hat, White hat, and Gray hat hackers and how they differ from each other.
The History of Hacking
In the early 1950s, the term “hacker’ was loosely used for someone who pushed the boundaries of the computer’s technical capabilities for testing purposes. However, around the 1980s when computers started becoming more widespread, the term hacker began to be associated with teenagers who were breaking into government computers. These groups of teens referred to themselves has hackers, perhaps because the word has an aggressive ring to it.
Surprisingly, several of those teenage “hackers” from the 80s are now running multi-million dollar cybersecurity companies while many others are still using hacking in a malicious way to make a quick dollar.
The 3 Main Types of Hackers
Knowing the history of hacking can give you a background on the different kinds of hackers, and this information can also help protect your business from cybersecurity threats. Let’s take a look at the three most common types of hackers.
Black Hat Hackers
Black Hat hackers are the ones most non-IT people typically think of when the term hacker comes up. This group is largely responsible for creating malicious programs and campaigns to steal your information/data.
Black hat hackers typically attempt to steal data by attacking websites and personal devices by creating viruses or malware designed to damage your computers and other devices. Those associated with this group are largely responsible for committing identity theft, credit card fraud, and extortion. Black hat hackers may even work for a state or government to commit espionage and cyberterrorism.
Kevin Mitnick is a prime example of a black hat hacker. In the 1990s, Mitnick went on a two-and-half-year hacking spree, committing wire fraud and stealing millions of dollars of data from telecom companies and the US National Defense warning systems.
After spending five years in prison, he set up his eponymous cybersecurity firm and became its CEO and Chief White Hat Hacker.
White Hat Hackers
This group of hackers is most commonly referred to as the “good guys” as they are the ethical hackers or network security specialist. White hat hackers are basically the opposite of black hat hackers. They focus on finding weaknesses to help tix the vulnerability so it cannot be taken advantage of by the black hat hackers. Whether it’s selling what they find to hardware and software vendors in “bug bounty” programs or working as full-time technicians, white hat hackers are interested in making an honest buck.
Linus Torvalds is a great example of a white hat hacker. After years of experimenting with the Sinclair QDOS operating system, he released Linux, a secure open-source operating system. Linux is built to prevent malware, rootkits, and other computer pests from being installed onto your device and operated without your knowledge. This is because most infections are designed to target Windows computers and can’t cause any damage to the Linux OS.
Gray Hat Hackers
Gray hat hackers fall somewhere in between black hat and white hat hackers. Whether a gray hat hacker works as a security specialist or is a cybercriminal, the majority of their work is usually conducted over the internet.
While most gray hat hackers usually enjoy the anonymity that gives them the opportunities to try their hands at both white hat and black hat hacking, not all gray hat hackers live in the shadows. For example, Marcus Hutchins is a known gray hat hacker. He’s most famous for stopping the WannaCry ransomware by finding a “kill switch.”
However, Hutchins also created the Kronos banking malware. He was arrested in 2017 and pleaded guilty, accepting full responsibility for his mistakes. He now uses his talent by working for Kryptos Logic cybersecurity firm. According to Hutchins, he has since been using the same skills that he misused several years ago for “constructive purposes“.
The rapid evolution of the cyber realm means there is more information available online every day, and there are many sorts of hackers looking to misuse it. While the purpose behind each hacker’s action varies, the danger they pose to your data and company is constant.
If you think your website or data has been hacked, contact our cybersecurity experts as soon as possible. You can also contact us if you have any questions about how to secure sensitive business information.