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Cybersecurity Consulting

What is a Black Hat Hacker?

May 23, 2023

6 minutes

hacker typing on laptop

A black hat hacker is what most people think of when they picture a hacker in their heads. They’re the classic evildoers who force their way into networks to cripple systems, steal data, and more. To stop them, businesses need to understand them.

In this blog, we’ll cover exactly what a black hat hacker does, the means they use to attack, how they’re different from other types of hackers, and what businesses can do to protect themselves.

If you’d first like to get a jump-start on reviewing the thoroughness of your cybersecurity defenses, download DOT Security’s checklist, How Covered Is Your Business?

Black Hat Hacker Definition

A black hat hacker is defined as someone who attempts to infiltrate a computer system by exploiting vulnerabilities with the intent to do harm. This is the opposite of a white hat hacker, also known as an “ethical hacker,” who uses similar means but has been deliberately hired by an organization to help them shore up their defenses.

A black hat hacker, however, has only malicious intent and aims to do harm by stealing data for ransom, reselling, extortion, or something else equally villainous.

Black Hat vs. White Hat Hacker

In terms of what they actually do, black hats and white hats achieve their goals with very similar means. Both use the latest hacking strategies and technologies to crack the cybersecurity systems of businesses and individuals.

The main difference is what they do once they’ve broken in. While a black hat hacker looks for ways to steal data, spy on users, or activate malware, a white hat hacker notes the weaknesses they found in the victim’s security system and helps their client correct them for the future.

white hat hacker vs black hat hacker

Other Types of Hackers

Black hat and white hat hackers are by far the most commonly known types. However, there are a few other classifications for people who have their own styles or motivations:

Grey Hat Hacker

Definition: Grey hat hackers force their way into business systems the same way a black hat hacker would, but with the intent of fixing the problem for a small fee.

This is morally dubious because grey hat hackers don’t act with permission to do this like a white hat hacker, and it’s not entirely with good intentions in mind. If an organization decides they do not want to pay the grey hat hacker, that hat may turn black.

Red Hat Hacker

Definition: A red hat hacker is someone who attempts to stop black hat hackers through counterattacks and other aggressive means of destroying a bad hacker's resources.

Green Hat Hacker

Definition: Green hat hackers are usually new to the cybersecurity world. They’re not necessarily affiliated with an organization, but are looking to hone their skills more than affect real change. They usually don't have any formal hacking skills or education.

Blue Hat Hacker

There are two different definitions for blue hat hackers depending on who you’re talking to.

Definition 1: Particularly in the Microsoft world, blue hat hackers are hired to look for flaws or vulnerabilities in unreleased products or software. They operate like a freelance sub-section of white hat hackers.

Definition 2: Blue hat hackers are also known as being people who act with the primary motivation of seeking revenge. Like green hat hackers, they usually don’t have any formal hacking training, but they are also only looking to handle a single project rather than continue over the long term.

How Do Bad Hackers Attack Businesses?

Black hat hackers will utilize every attack vector that they can to accomplish their goals. This means businesses need to not only be aware of the possibilities but be ready to stop them with proper cybersecurity systems in place.

Here’s a look at the most common types of hacking:

  • Keylogging: A keylogger, as the name suggests, logs the keystrokes a user makes. This allows black hat hackers to easily pick out their victim’s login credentials and use them to get into an organization’s network.
  • Phishing: A social engineering attack in which a victim is manipulated into clicking a link or downloading an attachment that contains malware.
  • Ransomware: A bad hacker gets software into their victim’s network that encrypts or otherwise blocks the owner’s access to their own data, and then promises to release it back to them for a fee.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): An attacker floods their target server with traffic, overwhelming its bandwidth so the intended users can’t get in and access their information or services.
  • Malware: This is a broad umbrella term for any software that performs malicious actions on a victim’s network. Malware can steal anything from passwords to money, often before the victim even knows it’s installed on their computer.

What Is a Black Hat Hacker’s Motivation?

For black hat hackers, there are multiple possible reasons for hacking into a network. Those can include:

  • Financial: The most common goal for black hat hackers, a financially motivated attack is performed simply to make money. They can accomplish this by stealing data to use as blackmail or hold for ransom, selling data on the dark web, selling data to competitors, or tricking people into giving up their financial information.
  • Political: Sometimes hackers take it into their own hands to expose information about a political figure or government activities they deem important for the public to see.
  • Revenge: Business isn’t personal, but hacking can be. Sometimes a hacker will attack simply to right a perceived wrong by locking devices or deleting and stealing data.
  • Corporate Espionage: Believe it or not, some companies will hire hackers to launch attacks on competitors. This is a highly illegal but realistic threat. Often the goal of these attacks is to steal confidential data or cripple a critical system.

Bottom Line

With black hat hackers roaming the web, it’s never safe for businesses to let their guard down. Even for SMBs who think they aren’t large enough to be a target, in a world where hackers know most businesses don’t have a thorough cybersecurity defense, it’s crucial to be the one that’s too well-protected to be worth going after.

You can protect yourself best by implementing a layered cybersecurity strategy and working with a team of specialists who monitor and defend your network. It’s only by having multiple means of defending sensitive data and proactive experts who review to ensure nothing has slipped through the cracks that you give yourself the best chance of staying safe.

Is your business prepared to handle the threat of these bad hackers? Use DOT Security’s checklist—How Covered is Your Business?—to see what cybersecurity measures you need to protect yourself from black hat hackers today.