Published: 15/10/2021

Types of Hackers

What are the most common types of hackers?

There are many titles that can be given to hackers, but there are three basic types of hackers:

  • White Hats
  • Grey Hats
  • Black Hats

However, these terms are only accurate in the context of how the hacker is using their hacking skills. A person might be classed as a black hat if they use their knowledge for financial gain or malicious intent, whereas an ethical white hat uses hacking techniques to identify vulnerabilities in order to fix them before criminals can take advantage. Grey hats could refer to those who don’t break into systems with bad intentions but might not inform the company that they have found a vulnerability – this fact has seen some grey hats charged under anti-hacking laws.

What are black hat hackers?

black hat hacker is a type of hacker who uses hacking skills for criminal or malicious purposes. The name probably derives from the fact that in Western cowboy films, a black hat was worn by the villain, while a white hat was worn by an upstanding hero. Today, black hat refers to any criminal hacker, though it is now more commonly used to refer specifically to hackers who gain unauthorized access to computer systems for personal gain.

What are grey hat hackers?

grey hat hacker is someone who uses hacking skills for good or financial gain, but who violates laws or intellectual property. Many hackers that are considered grey hats are charged with criminal hacking, but not always. The motivations of grey hat hackers can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved.

What are white hat hackers?

white hat hacker is a type of hacker who uses hacking skills for defensive purposes or to test their own network security. White hats are the good guys and their aim is to identify loopholes and security threats before criminals can exploit them. White hat hackers usually work with the permission of the business or organization they’re trying to protect, as well as the law. In most cases, they report vulnerabilities to companies so that they can fix them as soon as possible.

What are ethical hackers?

Hacking is usually considered a criminal activity, but there are types of hackers out there whose intentions are more along the lines of being classified as ‘ethical’. For example, instead of using their skills for personal gain or financial profit, they might use them to identify vulnerabilities in systems so that they can be fixed before criminals have the chance to exploit them. They will inform companies if they find any potential issues with security and may even work alongside organizations to fix said problems. Usually, the term ‘white hat’ refers to skilled ethical hackers who use their abilities to help companies protect themselves against criminal hackers. But this isn’t always the case.

Ethical hacking is a term that refers to gaining access or making changes to an organization’s information systems or computer network for the purpose of identifying security vulnerabilities, but with the permission of the organization’s owners, while adhering to an approved code of conduct. Often referred to as penetration testing, it is basically performing simulated attacks on networks and systems in order to test how secure they are from potential malicious attackers – no real damage should result from these attack simulations. The intention behind ethical hacking is entirely defensive. It seeks not only to find weaknesses before criminals can exploit them, but also to educate organization owners about how to fix identified problems.

Other types of hackers

  • Script kiddies. Hackers who use automated tools written by others to attack computers and networks.
  • Phreakers. They hack into telecommunications systems such as the public telephone network or an emergency service’s control channels.
  • Hacktivists. They use their hacking abilities to promote a social, ideological, religious or political agenda. They can also use their skills to attack government websites and agencies.
  • Cyberterrorists. A type of hacker who hacks into computers to cause damage or initiate an act of terror.
  • Organized criminals. They use hacking as a tool in support of traditional crimes such as fraud, extortion, identity theft, ransom and blackmail.
  • Industrial espionage. Industrial espionage is a long-standing problem that companies have been trying to combat for years. Hacking gave the practice a new lease of life. For example, it can be used to obtain a competitor’s secrets or even sabotage their business activities.

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