Are they not the same if you say “white hat hacker vs black hat hacker”? “You landed on the right article, then. Depending about what color hat they wish to wear, hackers can be nice or evil, and we don’t say it in the way of making a fashion statement!
There are good hackers who try to secure our knowledge, computers, websites, and systems constantly. And poor hackers, of course, do all manner of legendary cybercrimes. But there are others who, on a scale from good to bad, fall somewhere in between. We covered six different types of hackers recently in another article.
For the purposes of this post, we will concentrate on covering the two major hacker styles (i.e., white hat hacker vs black hat hacker). In it, we’ll discuss what they do, why they do it, and what makes their methods close or different to black hat hackers and white hat hackers.
|Black Hat Hackers||White Hat Hackers|
|Their intentions are selfish or harmful in nature.||Their intentions are noble and often aim to benefit or protect others.|
|Hacking done by black hat hackers is illegal.||Hacking done by white hat hackers is legal.|
|They infiltrate or control websites, devices, or other systems without permission of the owner/ authorization.||They penetrate the system with the owner’s permission. Government agencies and other organizations hire white hats to test the software/devices and carry out non-harmful cyber attacks to find gaps in their security.|
|Search for the security vulnerabilities to exploit them.||They search for security vulnerabilities and offer suggestions and solutions to patch them.|
|Write malware to hack devices, servers, and websites.||Develop security software, tools, and techniques to detect and remove malware.|
|Take advantage of users’ lack of awareness about cyber threats to manipulate or defraud them with various phishing techniques.||Educate people about cybersecurity threats and risks, as well as ways to mitigate them.|
|Deploy ransomware and spyware attacks to blackmail individuals/organizations.||Develop tools and contingency plans to help people deal with ransomware and spyware attacks without paying extortion money.|
|Steal confidential data that they can use for cybercrime activities or sell to other attackers on the dark web.||Aim to help companies protect sensitive data by strengthening their cyber defenses.|
|Some countries’ governments employ them to deploy cyber attacks, steal confidential data, espionage, and cause political unrest in their enemy counties. These are known as nation-state actors.||Many local, state and national governments employ white hats to protect their servers, websites, databases, and other IT infrastructure.|
What Is a Black Hat Hacker?
A black hat hacker closely resembles the hackers’ traditional media portrayals, but they don’t usually wear hoodies or hide in the basements of their parents. The ones who notoriously use their technological skills to inflict injury and defraud others are black hats. Typically, they have experience and skills on how to hack into computer networks, carry out numerous cyber threats, write ransomware, and breach security protocols. Without approval from the founders, they get into structures, and their motives are not innocent.
So why do hackers in black hats do what they do? The motivations of Black hat hackers often include:
- Trying to earn cash,
- Ruining the image of others for vengeance,
- Proving their extremist social/religion beliefs,
- Employed and working on political agendas,
- Achieving popularity.
Some hackers hack black hats only to cause confusion and fear. It seems like black hat hackers get sadistic gratification in certain instances and enjoy damaging the image of an individual or corporation, causing damage to the operations of the government, or losing valuable data. When they break a machine or defraud someone, some of them may be hooked to hacking and get a feeling of accomplishment.
What Black Hat Hackers Do
There are several operations that usually concern black hat hackers with:
Malware and other malicious code for writing
Malware means malware which is harmful. Any of the malware types that are most widely used are:
- Trojan horses,
- Computer worms,
The malware is created and spread by black hat hackers to undermine the security posture of a system or computer.
Phishing Attacks Deploy
Black hat hackers carry out numerous social engineering attacks to confuse or exploit people into doing things they shouldn’t do in order to spread ransomware or defraud people. A couple of examples include:
- Sending phishing emails or SMS messages impersonating the user, organization, or entity victims’ trust.
- Calling for contributions of money due to bogus accidents or contributions from fraudulent ngos.
- Trying to get bogus goods or utilities to be downloaded by users.
- Hiding viruses in attachments or connections to emails.
Thus, the former develops software to spot phishing scams by contrasting white hat vs. black hat hackers, and the latter uses phishing techniques to commit cybercrimes.
Exploit the Security Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities mean software bugs or weak areas in IT systems that may be used as an entry point by hackers. But did you know that lists of common vulnerabilities actually exist that can be found in the public domain? The list of common security vulnerabilities and disclosures from MITRE is one such example.
So, in this area, how does one compare a black hat hacker to a white hat hacker? Black hat hackers always find ways to exploit them for their own gain in search of these vulnerabilities. So, the soft targets that black hat hackers love to attack are persons who use obsolete versions of operating systems, applications, extensions, themes, or games. Computer bugs are also hunted by white hat hackers, but their aim is to aid software developers and computer manufacturers to find security gaps and fix the vulnerabilities.
Conduct Social Engineering Scams
Black hat hackers make false profiles of the individuals you trust on social media to manipulate you to share private, sensitive, or financial details they exploit for fraudulent purposes. They might also access social media accounts and send the contacts of the victim with links or attachments containing malware. To guess your credentials to bypass security mechanisms, black hat hackers also use the data you disclose on social media.
Blackmail Victims Using Ransomware and Spyware
Black hat hackers insert ransomware or spyware into the devices of their targets. They use ransomware to encrypt important information or lock devices and then demand access to the ransom. Or they may be using spyware to watch the activities of their targets. This type of malware can grab screenshots of the actions of users or allow the hacker access to the screens of their computers for remote viewing/accessing.
If they don’t pay the extortion money, black hat hackers may choose to blackmail victims, threatening to leak their confidential data to the public. Some of the sensitive data types they are threatening to disclose include:
- Personal or business files,
- Videos, and
- Intellectual properties.
Carry Out Political Agendas
Some black hat hackers do political espionage to steal confidential election, environmental, military, treaties with other nations, etc. studies or information. In order to cause political unrest in the country, they often release such information to the public or blackmail key government officials.
To cause operational disruptions and general chaos, they also deploy DDoS attacks on government websites and servers.
Unfortunately, some countries officially hire black hat hackers on the servers of the rival country for political espionage or execute cyberattacks. These kinds of tactics are infamous in countries like Iran, China, and Russia.
Sell Your Sensitive or Confidential Data
Some hackers steal user data by penetrating leaky databases or using malware. Then, on the Dark Web, they sell this data. But, who’s buying it? This information is used by other black hat hackers to execute different identity theft or financial fraud schemes. In order to craft targeted advertising or send spam emails, even online advertisers and marketers are interested in such data.
Some black hat hackers target the servers of companies to steal confidential data, such as:
- Key customers, manufacturers, sellers,
- Pricing information,
- Data concerning future planning of financial and markings,
- Intellectual Property and technical documents,
- Secrets of trade, etc.
They may choose to use this information on their own, or they may choose to sell it to other cyber criminals or even their rivals.
What Is a White Hat Hacker?
These are the good hackers who use their technical abilities to protect the globe from hackers of the black hat. White hat hackers are also known as “ethical hackers.” They are equally talented IT professionals who have cybersecurity and ethical hacking degrees and certifications. White hat hackers employ the same hacking techniques as black hat hackers, but they do so legally and with the authorization or permission of the system owners.
You may be surprised to know just how common hackers are with white hats. In the positions of security specialists, information security analysts, pentesters, and cybersecurity researchers, white hat hackers can often be found. They also work as autonomous consultants or freelancers. You might even have one or two of them at your company as colleagues.
The intentions of White Hat hackers are:
- Educate users about different cyber threats and ways of avoiding them.
- Identify applications and infrastructure vulnerabilities and exploits so that organizations can fix them.
- Helping organizations strengthen their overall posture of security.
- Develop software that detects malware and removes it.
- In the event of a cyber attack, make contingency plans.
What White Hat Hackers Do
Now that we know what white hat hackers are, let’s explore some of the typical activities that white hat hackers engage in:
White hat hackers check a computer system, software, network, or web application for bugs or security vulnerabilities during penetration testing. But unlike hackers with black hats, white hats do this with permission from the owner.
Ethical hackers try to break into all the entry points or deploy various types of cyber attacks on the system without damaging it in order to discover weak security spots. Basically, they try to recognize security vulnerabilities so that before black hat hackers can exploit them, they can be fixed. White hat hackers perform penetration testing (pen testing) manually or by using different software and tools.
Develop Security Products
Some white hat hackers are programmers that develop security products such as antivirus, antimalware, antispyware, firewalls, browser security extensions, honeypots, and filters of information. White hat hackers also develop website instruments and techniques to identify and mitigate cyber attacks such as:
- DDoS attacks,
- Brute force attacks,
- Cross-site scripting, and
- SQL injections.
Help Companies Be Compliant
Companies handling sensitive data from users must comply with the safety guidelines outlined in acts such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, etc. White hat hackers ensure that businesses comply with the latest laws and safety standards required for the sector. This helps those organizations retain and increase their customers’ trust and avoid fines for non-compliance.
Cybersecurity Educate Users
White hat hackers are often scholars or researchers who educate users on how to identify cyber attacks and prevent them. In the event of a crisis, they may also develop contingency plans that companies and organizations can use.
Wrapping Up the Topic of White Hat Hacker vs Black Hat Hacker
Hackers can be a dreadful villain or a world saving superhero! Black hat hackers, if you think from a different perspective, challenge the cybersecurity industry to constantly evolve and strive for new security tactics. And not all bad guys stay bad — some of the most famous black hat hackers have become white hat hackers!
We hope the next time you encounter the word “hacker” that you won’t immediately draw a negative picture of the hoodie guy in your mind, now that you know the key points of the topic of white hat vs black hat hackers. Instead, before coming to a specific conclusion, we hope you’ll pause and try to find out what type of hacker someone is.