Who Are Black Hat Hackers?
Black hat hackers breach computer system defenses with malicious intent. Learn more about what they do and how they got their name.
The global hacker community is incredibly diverse. Some hackers breach computer systems to identify vulnerabilities and enhance defensive capabilities, while others do it for criminal gain or as part of cyber attack operations. The different hat colors denote the different types of hackers. In this article, we’ll tell you about the black hat hacker.
Definition of Black Hat Hackers
Many associate hacking with some form of illegal activity. But some hackers work as cybersecurity experts to improve the digital immune system. These penetration testers are known as white hat hackers, while their bad counterparts wear black hats. So, what is a black hat hacker?
Black hat hackers use phishing, malware, or other forms of attacks to steal data or penetrate systems with malicious intent. Their motives can vary from financial to political, or they can simply be showing off their own skills. These hackers are on the other side of the law, and since they know how serious the legal consequences are, they do everything they can to remain anonymous.
Most are highly skilled and often offer their services to the highest bidder. These bad guys work independently or in groups. They can have “day jobs” and be of any age, race, or gender.
Different Types of Hacking
Black hat hackers break into computer networks, steal sensitive data, blackmail the victims, and destroy files. These crimes are committed on a daily basis. Below are some of the most common types of attacks within the black hat hacking ecosystem.
- Phishing: Black hat hackers create fake pages and send out emails posing as legitimate companies or institutions that the victim interacts with. The messages are often designed to trick recipients into clicking on a malicious link from where hackers steal login information and other sensitive details.
- Bait and switch attack: Hackers can buy advertising space and place a malicious link that, when clicked on, infects your device. While victims think they’re clicking on an ad, they are unknowingly downloading a virus.
- Ransomware: Installed by hackers, ransomware perpetually blocks access to the victim’s files and system. In exchange for unblocking the data, the hacker demands a ransom. If they get caught carrying out this hack, black hats can face 20 years in prison.
- Keylogger: Keyloggers are pieces of software that record each keystroke. Everything that a victim types, including their sensitive information, is passed on to the hacker.
- Fake W.A.P: This method involves the use of software to impersonate a wireless access point or W.A.P. Once the victim connects to the fake W.A.P, their data can be accessed by the hacker.
Understanding the Color Coding
Now that we know what black and white hat hackers do, it’s time to take a closer look at what inspired these categorizations. These terms derive from 1950s Westerns where the bad guys wore black hats, and the good guys wore white and other light colors. There are other types of hackers, including gray hat, blue hat, green hat, and red hat ones.
White hat hackers are the exact opposite of black hat hackers. Mostly, they hack computer systems to expose weak points and improve security.
On the other hand, gray hat hackers stand somewhere in between. While they won’t use their knowledge to extort, steal, or threaten online users, they will often hack systems and networks without consent to point out security flaws. But unlike the black hat, computer security is important to most gray hat hackers. In some cases, they offer to fix bugs in exchange for a fee.
As much as this type of hacking can improve the level of security, it is still illegal, mainly because these “tests” are done without prior approval.
Unlike the gray hat hacker, black hat hackers aren’t looking to expose security flaws but rather use them for personal gain. They’ve hacked phone companies, large corporations, religious groups, governments, and even the CIA.
Many of today’s white hat hackers are former black hat hackers who switched sides. They now use their expertise without risking their freedom and causing immense damage to individuals and businesses.
The Most Notorious Black Hat Hackers
For some of those who wore the black hat, cyber security measures never posed much of a barrier. Below are the names of some of the world’s most notorious hackers.
Kevin Poulsen was responsible for hacking government computers, including the Pentagon’s network. Poulsen enjoyed a prosperous hacking career and even admitted to hacking a radio station contest to win a $20,000 cash prize, a fancy new car, and a vacation.
Adrian Lamo was known for always notifying the victims and the media after a successful attack, and some of his victims include Yahoo and the New York Times. He was also known for turning in Chelsea Manning for leaking government documents to WikiLeaks.
Kevin Mitnick today runs a security consulting company, but around thirty years ago, he was the FBI’s most-wanted cybercriminal. Some believe that he hacked systems only to point out the flaws. He hacked phone companies and government networks and even served a jail sentence. Ultimately, he went from black hat to cybersecurity consultant. Today, he’s the CEO and the so-called Chief Hacking Officer at Mitnick Security Consulting.
TV coverage about the lives of black hat hackers may be entertaining, but in reality, they pose a serious threat to individuals, companies, and government institutions. They can compromise the personal and financial information of individuals or trade in state secrets. Since they mainly accept tasks from the highest bidder, they are capable of inflicting serious damage on society.
Hackers can be sorted into several categories, including white hat, gray hat, and black hat. The meaning of a black hat derives from Westerns in the 1950s, where the bad guys had black hats, and the good ones wore lighter colors. Black hat hackers infiltrate computer systems for malicious purposes, while white hats search for vulnerabilities to improve security.
Black hat hackers commit cybercrimes and target both individuals and businesses. They steal data, leak confidential information, or extort money. In some cases, hackers don’t want money or glory but are motivated by a political cause.
One of the most notorious black hat hackers is Kevin Mitnick. Although Mitnick runs a security firm today, he was once among the most wanted hackers. He is known for hacking more than 40 corporations, such as Nokia, Motorola, and IBM. He spent almost five years in prison, and it is estimated that he caused around $300 million in damages.
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