Due to the facile access to technology and social media, almost everyone is aware of the term “Hacker” nowadays. However, this word is commonly associated with attackers having malicious intent. Interestingly, nefarious hackers are not the only class of hackers out there. In the cybersecurity domain, hackers can be classified into three different categories depending on their intent and motivation: Black hat, White hat, and Grey hat.
So, what exactly are the contrasts between these hackers? Let’s dig deeper to find out.
What is a black hat hacker?
This category includes those hackers who perform malicious operations to break into a network or system for a wide range of purposes, like reputational damage, financial gain, or other cybercrimes. Such criminals have the intention and potential to crack systems by exploiting any security vulnerability. Black hat hackers can work alone or with an organized criminal gang to cause as much damage as possible.
More often than not, black hat hackers develop a speciality that makes them unique from the general group of hackers. Some choose phishing as the main way to infiltrate a system while others prefer Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks as the mode of crime. With the advancements in technology, black hat hackers are becoming more sophisticated and progressive to bypass traditional anti-viruses and firewalls.
What is a white hat hacker?
White hat hackers – also known as ethical hackers – are the antonyms of black hat hackers. These are the “good hackers” who focus on uncovering any vulnerability or security failings to help in the protection of enterprises and organizations from cyberattacks. A white hat hacker is generally hired by a company or a government agency as a security specialist to prevent cybercrimes. There are also some white hat hackers who voluntarily spend their time finding security vulnerabilities and are offered a reward by the organization for discovering a security weakness before a potential cyberattack.
The significance of ethical hackers can never be underestimated, especially in today’s world. Without these ethical hackers, private data and secretive financial information stored by security-sensitive organizations can fall into the hands of attackers. It is always better for a security failure to be discovered by a white-hat hacker rather than a black-hat one.
What is a grey hat hacker?
Grey hat hackers lie between white and black hat hackers and possess some properties of both. Like ethical hackers, they discover potential security vulnerabilities in a system and have no malicious intent to misuse personal data. However, the set of actions performed by them is illegal because they don’t have permission from that company to hack their systems. Once any vulnerability is discovered, grey hat attackers immediately inform the relevant personnel and demand a bounty for their work. However, their actions are often deemed illegal.
White hat hacker vs Black hat hacker:
Although the objective of both white hat and black hat hackers is to find any security weaknesses, the main difference between them is their motivation and intent. A black hat hacker is driven by greed and cupidity to steal sensitive data. On the contrary, an ethical hacker strives to protect the reputation and integrity of an organization by saving them from potential cyberattacks in the future.