Black Hat Hackers vs White Hat Hackers

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There are many different types of hackers in the world - seemingly named after various coloured headwear pieces.

black hat vs white hat hacker

We're going to look at the difference between the commonly known black hat and white hat hackers and the lesser known grey, red, blue and green hats!

Black Hat Hackers

Who Are Black Hat Hackers?

The above picture is what many people envisage when they think of a stereotypical Black Hat Hacker. The kind you might have seen portrayed in the media, in movies or online.

Black Hat Hackers are cyber criminals. 

They illegally hack in to networks planting viruses or malware, or to steal sensitive data for the hacker’s own gain.

Black is the colour of the hat worn by hackers who are up to no good.

Black Hat hacking can pose a serious risk and threat to economy.

Think about it, 44% of the world has internet access, however the other countries that do not, heavily rely on the countries that do for aid and trades.

world Connection

Biggest Black Hat Data Hacks

In the past 10 years, data breaches have exposed over 38 billion records, according to the cybersecurity firm Risk Based Security.

With just under 3.08 billion people on the internet, that averages out as every single internet user having a minimum 12 of their accounts compromised. 

Largest data breach in history...

Yahoo released statements to the public in 2016 describing 2 major hacking attacks which occurred in 2013 and 2014. 

In a December 2016 statement the internet provider announced that up to 1 billion accounts may have been breached

Verizon – who acquired Yahoo in July 2017 – later confirmed 3 billion accounts had been breached by black hat hackers.

Yahoo Logo
Details Exposed

Hackers were able to obtain the names, dates of birth, email addresses and phone numbers of all Yahoo users

Equifax

In September 2017 the American credit reporting agency revealed to the public one of the worst data breaches in history

147 million consumers were effected – hackers were able to gain access to people’s names, dates of birth, credit card numbers and even social security numbers and driver’s license numbers.

Equifax logo
The Company Was Aware Of Vulnerabilities...

During the investigation Equifax admitted that during system testing carried out 6 months prior to the incident, they were informed of vulnerabilities which could leave them exposed to potential attacks.

However they did not follow the advice given to resolve these issues.

What Are White Hat Hackers?

White hat hacker
Image from thehacktoday.com

For a company to achieve a thorough internal system check, a professional which few hear of, with a refined set of skills and emotional intelligence is required.

White Hat hackers (also known as ethical hackers) not only help expose flaws in systems, but they assist in repairing them before black hats have a chance to exploit them.

These talented hackers are employed by governments and organizations to proactively hack into private networks and applications to better test their defenses, in preparation before a real attack occurs. 

Computer team
The current community of ethical hackers is also quite a young one:

Over 90% of white hat hackers are under the age of 35.

Of those people, over 50% are under 25!

Famous White Hat hackers:

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee 

Mr Berners-Lee is the man who essentially gave us the internet. It’s hardly surprising, following his roles as an engineer and computer scientist, that he would encompass white hack hacking and teach others how to avoid the exploiting of flaws in web systems by exploring the subject.

  • Charlie Miller

Miller is widely known for finding vulnerabilities in Apple systems. Prior to this he worked as an ethical hacker for the National Security Agency.

Who are Grey Hat Hackers?

You could argue that a Grey Hat hacker is in the middle between the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys. 

Grey Hats are professionals that hack into computer networks and systems illegally, but without malicious intent.

Grey Hat hackers are not employed by businesses to help discover flaws in IT systems.

Rather, a Grey Hat can often be found hacking for fun, entertainment or curiosity. 

A Grey Hat is aware of their illegal actions, and can often be difficult to trace.

Why Grey Hats Exist

Not all hackers are motivated by greed. There have been several stories published over the last 8 years about Grey Hat hackers have increased users’ security, albeit without their authorization or consent.

smart printer

An example from thesslstore.com in 2017 tells of a Grey Hat taking control of over 150,000 printers, printing a message to their owners about the dangers of leaving your printer exposed online.

In 2014 a Grey Hat hacked thousands of Asus routers to plant text warnings about files that were left exposed, reminding users to patch.

You could argue that this was ethical hacking and that their intentions were good, however hacking into networks and systems without permission is still illegal. 

Fixing security at home

You could compare this to someone breaking into your home and claiming they did it to check your locks and alarms were safe.

Great – but you broke into my house!

What Are Red Hat Hackers?

Either a trained professional individual or a group of individuals who form a community of hackers, using assertive, masterful and often enterprising means of stopping a Black Hat hacker.

– Computer wiz, professional hacker of 30 years and writer for InfoWorld.com, is a good example.

To summarise one of his “True tales of (mostly) white-hat hacking”:

spam emails

Roger became the victim of a porn spam register – receiving 5 spam porn emails within a minute. 

Roger was able to track down the sender email address, and replied politely asking the spammer to stop. 

The spammer replied that there was nothing he could do and followed up with 10 more porn spam emails.

Frustrated, Roger created a re-direct command in his email, so that whenever the spammer sent an email to Roger, the spammer would receive the email back 100 times.

This added fuel to the spammer’s fire, who then sent Roger spam porn to every email account and online profile he could.

At this point, Roger needed to take it one step further to make this guy stop.

Rodger found the name and email address of the spammer’s personal account, along with his wife, daughter, and grandparents.

Roger emailed the spammer and advised if he was to receive another email, he would send 100 copies of it to his family’s accounts.

It worked – Roger didn’t received another spam email from the hacker and even received a response advising that it may take a couple of days for Roger’s name to be taken off of other lists beyond his control.

Roger was elated – and took to an InfoWorld column to share his victory with the late Ed Foster to share his novel way of stopping spam attacks.

It was Ed Foster who grounded Roger, reminding him that threats to send spam to the perpetrator’s daughter, raised some ethical and perhaps legal issues.

Roger Grimes shares some great stories during his hacking years on InfoWorld – if you’re interested in reading more of his stories we’ve attached the link at the bottom of the page!

Blue Hat and Green Hat Hackers

Blue Hat hackers and Green Hat hackers are different from the above white, grey and red hats for one primary reason. 

amateur hackers

Blue Hat hackers and Green Hat hackers are amateurs with no professional computing skills.

Quite often blue and green hats will make rookie mistakes, and the success of their missions vary greatly from each end of the spectrum.

More often than not, these amateurs are unable to achieve their aim due to restrictions and firewalls in which they are not yet educated enough to overcome. 

Difference between a 'Blue Hat' hacker and a 'Green Hat' hacker?

Blue hat hacker
green hat hacker

On the other hand however, the amateur Blue Hat hackers have been known to exceed their goal of minor disruption on occasion, naively effecting entire networks and systems accidentally when attempting to target specific individuals.

Blue Hat Hackers

Blue Hat hackers are those seeking revenge against an individual or establishment.

Blue Hat hackers have a low success rate essentially because they normally don’t know what they’re doing!

Green Hat Hackers

Green Hat hackers are amateur hackers with no malicious intent, or desire to learn how to become a professional hacker later down the line. Green hats are not particularly out to disrupt, they may be merely investigating.

How To Stay Safe From Hackers

Online security

Even as you update the latest security software on your devices, with overall online protection improving – so too are the skills and abilities of Black Hat hackers.

When you’re buying and hodling crypto – YOU ARE YOUR OWN BANK.

You are responsible for protecting your digital assets from harmful attacks.

Governments, banks and all kinds of huge organizations use hundreds of different online security protections to shield against hackers and harmful malicious intruders.

Are you keeping your crypto safe?

We’ve put together 7 Top Tips on How to Keep Your Bitcoin Safe – Make sure to check it out! 

Helpful Reminder...

Below is a great infographic for remembering the different types of hackers.

Hacker analogy
Source - unknown

Thanks for stopping by,

Hopefully you’ve gained a better understanding of the differences between black, white, grey, red, blue and green hat hackers and why they exist. 

Let us know your thoughts on the various coloured headgear worn by the different hackers!

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Give us your thoughts on black, white, grey, red, blue and green hat hackers in the comments!

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