Last updated on August 28, 2023

Who are Hackers and what is the Hat system?

Hackers are individuals who have the knowledge and expertise to breach cyber defence systems.

In cybersecurity, hackers are classified as per a Hat system which came from old cowboy film culture where the good characters usually wore white hats and the bad characters wore black hats.

Black Hat Hackers

Black hat hackers are criminals who exploit vulnerable computers over the internet with malicious motive. They tend to spread malware that destroys files or steal passwords / credit card numbers / personal information. Leading black hats are skilled people who work for criminal organizations.

 How do Black Hat Hackers work?
  • They operate like big businesses distributing malicious software.
  • Some even run call centers which are used to make outbound calls pretending to be from legitimate companies.
  • Other hacks are automated (with no human involvement). E.g., Attack bots with malicious links / attachments
Examples for Black Hat Hackers
  • Kevin Mitnick – most wanted cybercriminal in US history
  • Julian Assangeaka Mendax (Creator of Wikileaks)
  • Hamza Bendelladj aka Bx1(Latter owner of the ZeuS Banking Malware)
White Hat Hackers

White hat hackers known as good hackers / ethical hackers exploit computer systems to find security flaws and recommend improvements. White hat hackers use their ability to save organizations from dangerous hackers. Before accessing the system, they obtain owners’ permission, legitimizing the procedure.

How do White Hat Hackers work?

They use competitions that reward hackers with cash prizes for reporting vulnerabilities.

Examples for White Hat Hackers
  • Jeff Moss(DEF CON founder)
  • Richard Stallman(Founder of the GNU project)
  • Tim Burners-Lee(Creator of the World Wide Web)
Grey Hat Hackers

Grey hat hackers act as a blend of black hat and white hat hackers. They look out for vulnerabilities in systems without the knowledge of the owner. If issues are found, what they do is report them to the owner and they may even request a small fee to fix.

How do Grey Hat Hackers work?
  • They persuade companies to hire them for a fee to fix issues when they illegally access company systems and find vulnerabilities. This is not practiced much now as companies take legal actions.
  • Some companies use bug bounty programs to encourage them to find vulnerabilities.
  • Sometimes when Grey hat hackers do not get a positive feedback from the company, they may turn out to be black hats and exploit company image.
Examples for Grey Hat Hackers
  • Khalil Shreateh (an unemployed computer security researcher), who hacked the Facebook page of Mark Zuckerberg in 2013