What is a Hacker?

It seems every week there is another data leak or major security breach on the news.  Who are these hackers responsible for these data leaks and why are they causing all these problems?  In this article, we will attempt to define the different types of hackers that have evolved and demystify the reasons behind their motivations.

When we hear the word hacker, and we immediately think of a lonesome character in a dark room typing code, surrounded by monitors as they attempt to compromise a website or business. But that is not the full picture of what hacking truly is.  Some hackers do work alone, sequestered away in some dark basement.  But there are also well funded, highly organized groups who exploit security weaknesses in computer systems and networks to gain unauthorized access, steal data, or cause damage.

So, not all hackers are the same. Let’s explore the different types that exist, including the good ones.  Yes, there are good hackers out there!

Black Hat Hackers

Hacking for personal gain.

The most notorious type of hacker is known as a Black Hat.  They are malicious folk who break into computer systems and networks with the intent to gain control of systems, steal data, or commit cybercrimes. They often use advanced hacking techniques and tools to carry out their attacks. Black hat hackers can intentionally cause serious harm to individuals, businesses, and governments.  Their actions are illegal and punishable by law.

It’s important to note that online scammers typically are not hackers, although they do prey on unsuspecting users to try and steal their money or personal data.

White Hat Hackers

The good guys, keeping us secure.

Also known as ethical hackers, these individuals use their hacking skills for good. These are the good guys!  They work for companies or governments to find vulnerabilities in systems and networks before malicious hackers can exploit them. White hat hackers use the same techniques and tools black hat hackers but with the goal of improving cybersecurity and preventing cyberattacks.

Some white hat hackers begin their journey as black hat hackers.  At some point, they switch over to creating solutions instead of causing problems. Sometimes they are caught during their black hat days and recruited after some reform has taken place.  Some companies pay big bucks to identify and eliminate bugs in their software, which can be a big draw for people with a hacking skill set.

Grey Hat Hackers

Hackers for hire.

These hackers don’t have a specific agenda, and they often operate in a gray area between black and white hat hacking. They may use their skills to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks and then alert the owners of these systems. However, they may also demand payment or other benefits in exchange for their services, which may be illegal.

Script Kiddies

In it for the thrill!

These hackers are often young and inexperienced, and they use pre-written scripts or tools to carry out their attacks. By using prewritten scripts, they are essentially training themselves to conduct more complicated attacks.  Typically, they do not have a specific agenda, and their attacks are often random and aimless. However, they can still cause damage to computer systems and networks, and their actions are illegal.


In it for the cause!

Hacktivists are political or social activists who use hacking to promote their causes. They may target government websites, corporate websites, or other high-profile targets to raise awareness about their issues. Hacktivists can sometimes use illegal methods to achieve their goals, and their actions can have serious consequences.  Hacktivists always have a specific purpose behind their actions, and usually do not intentionally harm the average user.

State-Sponsored Hackers

Purveyors of digital espionage and wagers of cyber warfare.

These are hackers who are sponsored by governments to carry out cyber espionage or cyber warfare. They are typically highly organized and well-funded, conducting their business on behalf of their country or sponsoring organization.  Their attacks can be highly sophisticated and can target critical infrastructure, businesses, or other countries. State-sponsored hackers can cause significant damage, and their actions can lead to diplomatic tensions, and even military conflicts.  State-Sponsored hackers typically do not target the average user, although they might incidentally cause harm to users with their efforts.

In conclusion

Understanding cybersecurity includes understanding the different types of hackers and how their actions affect us individuals and our businesses.  As discussed, there are many different types of hackers, and their motivations and actions vary widely between them. While some hackers use their skills for malicious purposes, others use them for good.  Although major attacks do affect us all, unless you are a high-profile person, the chances of a targeted hack against you are pretty rare.  Hackers are more likely to go after bigger targets, such as companies and corporations, simply because the rewards are larger.

As these kinds of attacks become more prevalent in today’s world, be sure to change your passwords regularly.  Use 2 factor authentication and biometric login wherever possible.  Don’t store credit card information online and close any online or shopping accounts that you don’t use anymore to reduce your online footprint and potential attack surface.

Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised.  If you are unsure if you have been victim of cybercrime, contact us and we can help you understand your options.  Call us at 912-216-4050 if you are interested in using our cybersecurity protection services for your business.