While the word hacker has dozens of definitions — including one who simply makes rough cuts into something — a computer hacker is typically defined as a person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data. While this might sound like a frightening proposition, not all hackers have malicious activity on their minds. In fact, some hackers do good things for the general public at large.
Let’s have a look at some different hacker types, and discuss which ones put your personal information at greatest risk.
1. White Hat Hackers
White hat hackers are also known as ethical hackers. These are experienced, skilled security professionals who are paid by governments and organizations to break into computer systems in order to identify cybersecurity loopholes.
Their goal is to do routine testing of the security of systems and make recommendations to strengthen or upgrade them. This is, of course, to stay one step ahead of cyber attackers and protect organizations against threats. You do not need to be worried about a white hat hacker attempting to gain access to your personal network or information.
2. Black Hat Hackers
These are the polar opposite of White Hat Hackers. These security “professionals” seek to gain unauthorized access to a network for the purpose of compromising the system and stealing data. These are the bad guys you read about.
Black Hat Hackers cause data breaches — a lot of them. According to Statista, the number of data breaches in the United States in 2019 amounted to 1,473, with over 164.68 million sensitive records exposed.
3. Grey Hat Hackers
As their name implies, they fall somewhere in between White Hat and Black Hat Hackers. Though they are not legally authorized hackers, they can work with both good and bad intentions. A Grey Hat Hacker might be a “Hacktivist’, or someone who gains unauthorized access to a network in order to further an agenda. This could be to expose wrongdoing at a company or government agency — such as the hackers that leaked data from popular cheating site Ashley Madison in 2015.
4. Red Hat Hackers
Like the White Hat Hackers, these are computer security professionals who attempt to thwart the Black Hat Hackers. However, while White Hat Hackers are primarily engaged in testing systems when a breach or attack is not yet known, Red Hat Hackers attack Black Hat Hackers aggressively while an attempted breach is underway, until the Black Hat Hackers back down.
5. Green Hat Hackers
Green Hat Hackers are individuals who are new or “green” to the world of gaining unauthorized access to computer networks, and simply want to learn everything they can. Green Hat Hackers join online communities to meet others, share ideas and learn about hacking.
6. Script Kiddies
Script Kiddies are newbie hackers. However, unlike Green Hat Hackers, Script Kiddies have an agenda. While they are just learning and are rather unsophisticated — and most likely cannot write elaborate scripts or exploits on their own yet, they jump right in and persevere. According to the Security Boulevard blog, they often rely on existing tools and scripts to attack web applications or networks with one goal in mind: to impress other hackers or friends in their community.
7. Blue Hat Hackers
Blue Hat Hackers are one step up from Script Kiddies: they are Script Kiddies who have been “wronged” in some way by a company or even another hacker, and who wish to exact revenge on those who have challenged them.
The label “Blue Hat Hacker” has also been co-opted by Microsoft to refer to those hired to test and find loopholes in Microsoft products prior to launch.
To sum up, not all hackers hack with malicious intent. When you read about hackers gaining access to a system, you might be inclined to think that they are doing it to steal data — but in some cases, they are doing it on behalf of a company or for the greater good.
But how do you know if you’ve been the target of a hacker with malicious intent? Some common signs that you are being hacked include a slower system; unusual pop-up advertisements; and, of course, spam. To ensure that you are not a victim of a hack, stay on top of security measures from the software and online services you use regularly (i.e., Apple, Google, or Microsoft), change your passwords frequently and exercise caution when sharing personal details online.
You can also use a tool like Spokeo to help keep tabs on your personal information. Our dark web scan service can help monitor the farthest corners of the internet, and alert you if hackers are trying to sell your name or email on the dark web.
Jake Wengroff writes about technology and financial services. A former technology reporter for CBS Radio, Jake covers such topics as security, mobility, e-commerce, and IoT.