While hackers are generally grouped as a larger whole of technically adept, malicious specialists, there are key differences among them that divide the many type of hackers that exist. Some hackers want money for themselves and resort to evildoings, while others you might encounter could be securing your company's data. In this blog post, we will aim to explain the three basic hacker classifications and discuss what differentiates them.
In the 1950s, the term “hacker” was vaguely defined as someone who explored the details and limits of computer technology by testing them for a variety of purposes. But by the 1980s, when computers became more accessible, “hacker” became closely associated with teenagers who broke into government computer systems. Many used their vast skillset to transition into successful Cybersecurity careers. This term often gets thrown around and in most cases misused. Below we'll dive into some standard definitions for hacker types.
3 Basic Types
Having an understanding of the standard hacker groups assists to better grasp the overall concept of hacking. Let’s take a look at the three main types of hackers that can impact your organization.
“Black hat” hackers
Black hat hackers create programs and campaigns to commit all sorts of malicious acts.
Black hat hackers typically use hacking tools to attack websites and steal data. They may also create viruses, malware or ransomware to damage computers and other devices. They commit crimes such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and extortion for their sole benefit. However, they can also be found within a corporation or a working for a state, committing 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
Often referred to as Ethical Hackers or network security specialists, white hat hackers are considered "friendly". They use their hacking skills to discover vulnerabilities in websites, systems and other environments so they can be proactively addressed. This then works to counteract exploitation attempts by black hat hackers, implementing similar techniques, but in a legal manner. White hats can be found selling what they find to hardware and software vendors in “bug bounty” programs or working as full-time technicians. The key to white hat hackers are that they are motivated by honest intentions and assist in raising awareness to cyber threats.
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
Furthermore, some Gray hat hackers, who fall somewhere in between black hat and white hat hackers. Gray hat hackers usually enjoy the anonymity that gives them the opportunities to try their hands at both white hat and black hat hacking. 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 is a perfect example of a hacker who now uses his skills under the work of a cybersecurity firm. According to Hutchins, the same skillset he once misused, lead his current development in what is self-described as "constructive" use.
The rapid evolution of the cyber realm means there is more information available online every day, which this is no surprise to the countless hackers present in contemporary society. Understanding the basic hacker classifications can help clarify the types of threats or non-threats that your business may face. While the purpose behind each hacker’s action varies, the danger they pose to your data and company is undeniable. Let Beringer Technology Group assist in identifying these hackers types and threats.
If you think your website or data has been hacked, contact our white-hat cybersecurity experts at Beringer Technology Group today. We can also help evaluate your current cybersecurity posture with our our Cyber Security Risk Assessment Solution, and implement the right security solutions for your organization.
Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution also provides expert Managed IT Services, Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cloud Based Computing, Email Security Implementation and Training, Unified Communication Solutions, and Cybersecurity Risk Assessment.