The term ‘hacking’ is more often than not used in the context of illegal or malicious activity on the internet and other virtual networks. In common parlance, a hacker is an individual with malicious intent and the act of hacking almost always comes attached with negative connotations of malice and illegality. However, the understanding of the concept of hacking is drastically different in the professional spheres of cybersecurity.
You might be wondering, ‘what do hackers do, anyway?’ A hacker is an individual who attempts to bypass existing network security protocols, identify potential vulnerabilities in cybersecurity, gain direct access to systems by exploiting the security loopholes and other such activities. However, such activities need not always be illicit or malicious and this is where the different types of hackers come into the picture. Understanding these different kinds of hackers will give you a better idea of why hacking at times is not only legal but also extremely important.
- The Types of Hackers
1. The Types of Hackers
The different types of hackers are determined based on the relationship of the hacker with the individuals who own or manage the system being hacked and with the system in itself. Therefore, there are several types of hacker attacks and not all of them are unauthorized since, in some conditions, permission may be granted to hackers to attempt to find loopholes or vulnerabilities in the security protocols of a particular system. Read on to find out how many types of hackers are there.
- Black Hat Hackers: Deriving inspiration from the Western cinema where bad characters used to don black hats, the term Black Hat Hacker refers to an individual who forces his way into a system in order to exploit it for malicious reasons. If the types of hacker attacks and techniques used by a hacker are information intended only to steal sensitive information such as personal information, passwords, or financial or cause general confusion by destroying online services or databases, such hackers is called black hat hackers.
- White Hat Hackers: On the other end of the hacking spectrum rest the white hat hackers who are largely considered to be security professionals who attempt to use their skills not to maliciously exploit weaknesses but instead to work with other security professionals to improve the security protocols that protect a system or network. White hat hackers, therefore, receive permission from the authorized owners of such a system or network to attempt to identify any loopholes or problems with the existing security networks. Unlike black hat hackers, white hat hackers are not violating any law and are therefore popularly also referred to as ethical hackers. The use of white hat hackers has increased drastically in recent times with global internet giants like Google and Facebook often paying huge sums of money to hacking professionals who can identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their data security systems.
- Gray Hat Hackers: Gray Hat Hackers are those who are neither White Hat Hackers nor Black Hat Hackers but fall somewhere in between. These hackers usually attempt to infiltrate systems and networks without prior authorization in manners similar to Black Hat Hackers but however, they reveal all loopholes and security issues to intelligence agencies, the management of the network or system, or law enforcement agencies. While some of these hackers may simply point out vulnerabilities to the administrators, others might look to extort them by offering to fix such problems in exchange for a certain amount of money.
- Script Kiddies: Often considered the most dangerous type of hacker, a script kiddie hacker has little to no knowledge or skills when it comes to hacking but instead uses scripts and tools created by other hackers in order to deface websites, disrupt services or hack into systems.
- Green Hat Hackers: Similar to script kiddies, Green Hat hackers are not experienced in hacking or particularly skilled at hacking techniques or practices. However, they possess a deep passion and desire to understand and learn the various facets of hacking and often reach out to other hackers for the appropriate assistance and training.
- Blue Hat Hackers: In the world of cybersecurity, there are in fact two views to who a Blue Hat Hacker is. While some believe that a Blue Hat Hacker is one who possesses little to no skill or interest in hacking but is only interested in getting revenge for an act of hacking that caused some form of distress to him, another interpretation predominant in the world of Microsoft is that a Blue Hat Hacker is one who is employed to identify loopholes in unreleased products and services.
- Red Hat Hackers: Often referred to as eagle-eyed hackers, they are similar to White Hat hackers in the sense that both attempt to stop and intercept attempts made by Black Hat hackers. However, Red Hat Hackers employ ruthless and aggressive counter-measures that may at times even completely destroy the system of the Black Hat Hacker.
- State-sponsored Hackers: Some governments may wish to gain unauthorized information about other countries or confidential information about foreign or local entities in order to protect the interests of the people they govern. When they employ hackers to do so, they are called state-sponsored hackers.
- Hacktivists: There are several individuals who hack into government portals and websites and cause disruption of government services and activities as a way of drawing the attention of the government towards any political or social cause. These hackers are popularly referred to as hacktivists.
- Whistleblower: A rare type, a whistleblower is one who takes advantage of his or her position within an organization in order to gain access to certain data that they then use to blackmail the organization to give them what they want.
Therefore, apart from the major three hacker groups: White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat, there are 7 types of hackers as mentioned above. While hacking is definitely a menace when carried out by individuals with malicious intent or those with little to no knowledge in hacking, professional ethical hacking has plenty of benefits to offer to the world of cybersecurity and the primary benefit is that it can be a great tool to implement much better and safer security protocols to protect sensitive information and data.
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