These days it’s easy to look at the mountain of cyber crime news out there, and imagine a hoodie-wearing, tech-savvy loner in a dark corner of a room trying to get into a network for information. However, times have changed. It’s not just technology that changes or security measures that evolve. Hackers are also evolving.
In order to properly detect hacking attempts, it’s also important to understand who’s behind the attacks as well. Hackers come in all shapes, sizes, and intentions, so never judge a hacker by their cover as it might be a whole different facade then what you believe. We’ll give you our top six types of hackers you may come across online.
The White Hat Hacker
The least malicious of the bunch, the white hat hacker breaks into protected systems to either test the security of the system, or conduct vulnerability assessments for a client. Most of the time, they work for a security company which makes the security software or product and wants to find weaknesses in the software before releasing it for open or commercial usage. Most recently, white hat hacker Tavis Ormandy discovered the vulnerability for Cloudflare. Ormandy, employed at Google, found and reported the bug, termed Cloudbleed, which was affecting millions of sites worldwide.
While they may use methods similar to “mal-intentioned” hackers, white hat hackers do not use the data that they’ve found for ill will. Simply put, the white hacker does what he or she does for ethical reasons, and there are even classes and certifications available to become a white hat hacker.
The Black Hat Hacker
A black hat hacker is most likely what the general public thinks of when they hear the word “hacker.” The black hat hacker is the opposite of the white hacker, where their intentions are always for personal gain rather than for the good of society. Also known as “crackers,” they gain joy from cracking into systems and bypassing security. A black hat hacker usually intends to profit from breaking into systems or does so simply to satisfy a craving for mischief – they can be differentiated from hacktivists who have a political motive for their hacking.
The Grey Hat Hacker
You guessed it, the grey hat hacker is a mix of the white hat and black hat hackers. While the grey hat hacker might break some rules and violate laws, they usually don’t have the malicious intent that the black hat hacker has. The white hat hacker will always hack under supervision or prior consent, but the grey hat hacker will not go to the lengths to receive permission before breaking into systems.
When a grey hat hacker finds a vulnerability, instead of alerting the authorities or the company, they will most likely offer to repair it for a fee – utilizing it as an opportunity to make some financial gain. Grey hat hackers argue that they only violate the law to help others, but because of the nature of their breaking and entering – companies may choose to prosecute rather than appreciate the “help.”
A hacktivist uses the world of computing and networks for a political movement. Whether it’s related to free speech, freedom of information, or proving a conspiracy theory, hacktivists span many ideals and issues. Many hacktivists work towards a common goal without reporting to a boss or an organization.
Even people unfamiliar with the IT world have heard of hacktivist groups like Anonymous, who have been active in their political movement over the past decade. Whether it’s combatting terror groups or calling for protests of retaliation, hacktivist groups hope to impact change in the real world through their programming skills in the cyber world.
The Script Kiddie
This is a wannabe hacker who lacks expertise. Just like it takes time to earn your Ph.D., it is difficult to go up the ranks to becoming a skilled hacker. A script kiddie is usually nowhere near the level of being able to hack into an advanced system, hence tending to stick to weakly secured systems. This “kid” may also get premade scripts or codes from other sources because they lack the knowledge to develop their own code. Script kiddies’ careers are generally short-lived as they might lack the discipline and creativity it takes to become an advanced hacker.
The Green Hat Hacker
Unlike a script kiddie, the green hat hacker is a newbie to the hacking game but is working passionately to excel at it. Also referred to as a neophyte or “noob,” this is a hacker who is fresh in the hacking world and often gets flak for it, having little to no knowledge of the inner workings of the web. Although it may seem unlikely that this newbie may cause any serious issues, because they’re blind to their own actions, green hat hackers can cause significant damage to a system without knowing what they’ve done and worse – how to reverse it.
It’s easy to compartmentalize hackers into good or bad, but it’s not always so black and white (pun intended). Whatever colored hat the hacker may wear, it’s important to note the differences in their techniques, results, and intentions. Then, once you understand the motives, it may be easier to either ask for assistance or perhaps look for a better security solution to guard your data and applications.