We will get to the types of hackers but first, we need to clear the misunderstanding of the word “Hacker.” The most common definition of a hacker is a person who hacks, which in general terms is correct. But this statement is very vague so let’s expand it a bit more.
A hacker is a person who can breach a device’s or software’s security to get unauthorized access to information or data which the public is not supposed to. The previous statement suggests that there are two categories. The first one is who creates the software and operating system, and the second one is who hacks those for personal gain? This question and many movie references might suggest that there are only two categories creators/designers and hackers, which is incorrect.
Why is the prior suggestion incorrect? It’s because a hacker can be good too. It might seem very strange to people new to this topic. Let’s compare the definitions of hackers mentioned above and their accuracy:
- First: A hacker is a person who hacks (True)
- Second: A hacker is a person who can breach a device’s or software’s security systems to get access to the information or data which the public is not supposed to (True)
- Third: A hacker is a person who hacks those for personal gain (False)
You should probably see what’s wrong here. A hacker can be a good person too if they find flaws, and then eliminate those flaws or report them to the correct authorities. The difference between the bad and good is their intent. Also, their methodologies are different, which we will explain ahead.
Types of Hackers
Many sites will claim that there are more shades or colors of hackers like Blue Hat hackers, but that doesn’t matter until they are publicly accepted. The accepted and renowned types of hackers are mentioned below.
White Hat Hacker
A white-hat hacker is an ethical hacker because all their techniques, methods, and intent are by the official rule books and standards. These people are experts in finding security flaws, loopholes, bugs, and exploits like the black-hat hackers. But they use their abilities for ethical hacking and legal purposes only. Hired by many companies and even governments for penetration testing and other purposes related to cybersecurity. Ethical hacking is done with consent only. These guys are skilled computer programmers and security professionals.
They carry out vulnerability tests and vulnerability assessments with permission to find weaknesses in computers, software, websites, mobile devices, etc, that someone could manipulate and then fix these issues. Ethical hackers can also be freelancers by participating in bug bounties. In the bug bounty programs, a company invites people to find security vulnerabilities in their programs and then pays people who find bugs.
White hats are the epitome of Security specialists. There are many different type of hackers but the White hat is a major one. Anyone with computer knowledge can be a white hat. To make it more explanatory, here is a list of the top five influential white hat hackers and their work:
- Tim Berners-Lee: The creator of World Wide Web who currently directs the Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
- Charlie Miller: Hacked into Mac (Macintosh) in less than 10 seconds, the first person to exploit Apple’s iPhone and Android. One of his amazing feats was to hack an iPhone remotely using an SMS message.
- Kevin Mitnick: Ex black hat hacker who broke into dozens of computers and allegedly North American Air Defense Command’s computer is one of them. He turned to the good side after being convicted and now runs a penetration and security testing company.
- Tsutomu Shimomura: Has worked for National Security Agency and is famous for aiding the FBI to arrest the notorious ex black hat hacker Kevin Mitnick.
- Jeff Moss: Worked in the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council, founded Black Hat and DEFCON conferences and is a commissioner at Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.
Black Hat Hacker
A black hat hacker or unethical hackers are extremely skilled like ethical hackers, but they have malicious intent. Some of their villainous goals include stealing data, destroying data, make the network unusable, and blackmailing for money and financial gain. It is hard to find security vulnerabilities inside networks and patching them, but the hardest part is to trace and catch the culprits. The perpetrators often like to use third-parties that don’t or have little chances to link back to them.
Third-party also includes a victim’s system an example is if they have access to systems and many devices or have bots then they can launch a DoS attack (Denial of Service attack) or a DDoS attack (Distributed denial of Service attack). This attack can be traced back to the victim’s IP and likely not the hacker’s.
In all types of hackers, Black Hat is the most renowned and prominent. This John Does refer to a black hat hacker as a hacker, and that is due to a lack of knowledge in this field. So here is a list of the five most renowned black hat hackers and their crimes:
- Kevin Mitnick: Hacked into major companies like Motorolla, IBM, North American Defense Command (NORAD), and many more.
- Matthew Bevan and Richard Pryce: This duo of the ages 21 and 17 (some say 16) hacked into multiple military networks and got files related to ballistic weapons research.
- Kevin Poulsen: Hacked into radio stations to win a Porsche and hacked into federal systems, and stole wiretap information.
- Gary Mckinnon: Breached 2,000 US Armed Forces computers and a couple of NASA computers after 9/11, he caused $700,000 in damage by deleting the critical logs. Breaking the record of most number of government computer hacks by a single person,
Grey Hat Hacker / Gray Hat Hacker
This type, as the name suggests, is a mixture of both black and white. Using wrong and illegal ways to hack the Grey hat hackers breach computers and networks, after which they choose to do nothing or report the vulnerability. The amount of grey hat hackers has always been scarce due to many issues. A Grey hat hacker does not take permission to hack or find vulnerabilities, and if they report the issue to the concerned authorities, they can be prosecuted.
This type exists as a part-time hobby and because of payouts. Many companies do not create bug bounty programs and are unaware of the loopholes inside their products and devices. Hence, the competition is low, and the payout is modest. They can also cross the boundary between good and bad by choosing who they disclose the flaws to. Do they report the weakness to correct authorities or disclose this info to the public? In the public’s hands, this type of info can cause trouble.
Some grey hat hackers are skilled, and some are not, most of them being good don’t even come in the spotlight, and that’s why you will find most teenagers as grey hat hackers. The experienced do not get caught or go public, unlike teens. This is the lesser-known yet one of the main category in all types of hackers.
TLDR; The good hackers are called White hat hackers, and the opposite is called Black Hat hackers (these are the two main types of hackers). These are the only types of hackers a normal person would know about.
Shades of Hats
There are always more than good, bad, and neutral types in every field same goes for the field of hacking. The above-mentioned are the main types of hackers. The ones mentioned below may be called sub-types (except Red Hat Hacker).
Green Hat Hacker
A green hat hacker is a person new to this field who is motivated to learn. These newbies to the cyberworld are eager to learn but often scolded by the experts because of their undirected questions. After all, they are starting to learn and eager to learn. Hence they bombard the community with questions. They are also unaware of the consequences of hacking, which might get them into hot water. The Green hat hackers are one of the types of hackers but least known by people.
Red Hat Hacker
These are the guys that everyone loves except the government agencies. The Red hat hackers, also known as Hacktivists, are extremely skilled like black and white hackers, but the most important thing that differs is the aim. These people hack for social justice and not money or fame. Pursuing a vendetta against the Black hat by directly attacking, harming, and exposing them. They also use illegal activities or malicious hacking techniques to achieve their goals. Attacks against people committing crimes like fraud, sex trafficking, child pornography, etc are done by them. Many organizations like Anonymous are working to fight the criminals but with a different approach.
This type has no color because these guys are familiar with the hacking terminologies and might know some ways to hack. But in reality, they copy-paste other’s work without giving them credit. They do not know how to hack or how to hack Facebook. All they know is what’s easily accessible on the internet. The wanna-be person choosing to explain and spew things related to hacking without even knowing what it means. They copy scripts and codes of others and don’t know how to code themselves. They have no concept of hacking but only like to copy and show off.
These all the types of hackers you need to know about and are currently present. Let us know your thoughts in the comments about different kinds of hacker in the comments,
Frequently Asked Questions about Types of Hackers
Do Red Hat Hackers exist?
Yes, they do exist, but due to the lack of acceptance, many do not think Red Hat is one of the types of hackers. Consider the example of Batman, he is a fugitive whom the police want to stop because he takes matters into his own hands. Is Batman a bad person? That is the same case with Red Hat Hackers.
Can you become a white/black hat hacker?
Most definitely you can! There are several online courses that enable you to become a white hat hacker or a black hat hacker. But make sure to choose a specific topic or category and stick to it. Often newbies can not learn because it is easy to get derailed into different topics.