Exploring Hacker Hat Colours: Black, White, Grey

While the word “hacker” generally holds negative connotations in today’s world, by definition hackers aren’t all inherently bad. Best described as any skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to problem solve, those who use these skills to gain unlawful access to data for personal gain have by and large given all hackers a bad name.

However, there are in fact different types of hackers and they are categorised by three different ‘hat’ colours – black, white, and grey. Hackers are defined by these colours depending on their behaviour and even though the word may cause fear at internet security companies, there are in fact those who use their skills for good. Here we discuss the three different types of hackers.

Black Hats

Black hat hackers are most likely the type of hacker you associate with the practise, as black hats are the type of hacker generally focused on by the media. Black hats gain unlawful, unauthorised access to data for personal gain by violating computer security protocols and often use their skills to steal credit card information or to generate acts of pure malice.

For example, if a black hat takes exception to your website, they may create a botnet which performs DDOS (denial-of-service) attacks against the website which will temporarily or permanently disrupt service. Defined as computer criminals, black hat hackers may even search for weaknesses in a security protocol and sell this information to criminal organisations on the black market. Fortunately the best pokies online make use of impenetrable SSL encryption technologies.

White Hats

Best described as the complete opposite of black hat hackers, white hats are ethical hackers who identify weaknesses in computer security systems in order to safeguard these systems from black hat hackers.

White hats are often employed by organisations to test security systems by attempting to breach the safeguards put in place – much like a black hat would – but instead of stealing the personal information found, white hats report back to these organisations in order for security protocols to be strengthened. This is known as ‘penetration testing’ and many organisations award prizes to white hats for revealing these vulnerabilities in order to compensate them for their work and to thank them for not using these vulnerabilities against them.

Grey Hats

Grey hats are so-named as the seemingly operate in the space between black and white hat hackers, and while they don’t access data for personal gain, they may technically commit crimes and succumb to unethical practises.

To clarify: a black hat would gain unlawful access to a computer system in order to steal data for personal gain or destroy the system, a white hat would ask for permission to test security protocols and report back with their findings, and a grey hat would attempt to compromise the system without permission and then report back to the organisation in order for the system to be patched and strengthened. While grey hats don’t steal any information, they do attempt to breach security systems without permission which is illegal.