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Cyber Security: Hackers – What Color is The Hat?

“Hacker” – this sometimes misused term brings to one’s mind an image of a nefarious miscreant breaking into a computer and wreaking havoc with the system for personal gain or just to be anti-social. Well, this is sort of true – Sometimes.

Generally, hackers are designated by hat colors to define the motive behind what they do with computers and data systems.

Black Hat

This is probably the one you think of when you hear the term “Hacker”. You probably picture a loner down in his (or her) basement, surrounded by home built computers, and devouring bandwidth like a hungry tiger. They are trying to illegally discover open ports, sending email with embedded malicious code, or just doing brute force attacks against the computers of some commerce giant or government agency. When they finally do penetrate the target and discover a vulnerability, they may exploit it themselves or sell it for the highest bid to another criminal organization. They are the criminals of the computer world.


White Hats

“White Hats”, sometimes called “Ethical Hackers”, are the ones that you probably don’t see in the movies or read about in spy novels. They also exploit the computers of many entities, but they do it legally, with prior permission and for the owner’s benefit. They may use some of the same techniques as the black hats, but when they do penetrate, they explain to that entity exactly what the vulnerability is in their company or system and how to seal off that access. This is known as “Penetration Testing”. They will also monitor these systems and attempt to discover who the Black Hats are that are attacking it and try to help shut them down. White Hats are sometimes compensated for their work by internally reporting the vulnerabilities and helping to fix them.


Gray Hats

As with most things in life, it’s not always black or white, but sometimes gray. A Gray Hat hacker may still compromise a system, and even report the vulnerability to the owner, but if done without prior permission it can be illegal. Or they may disclose the vulnerability or information, not for their personal gain, but publicly to see how much carnage they can generate. Think about the Ashley Madison hack. No real personal monetary gain for the hackers but lots of damage.


So – Black, White, or Gray hats – doing basically the same thing but for vastly different reasons. This distinction is something you need to be familiar with when searching for the Cyber Security Solution that is the best fir for you current “Security Posture”.

Our Managed Security Services boasts a Team of seasoned and expert White Hack Hackers that can be leveraged to defend your network and valuable networking assets.

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