What is a white hat hacker? The Difference between White, Grey and Black Hat Hackers

All hackers are perceived as a criminal or bad person who steals money. We perceive all this from mainstream media where we see the hackers are involved in stealing data, people's hard-earned money, hacking devices, and systems which cause cyber terrorism. Though, reality is different. Hacking is legal when it is done with the permission of the owner on devices, systems or networks. It is a global acknowledged practice where companies and government agencies hire hackers to hack their systems to help them identify what are the loopholes in their systems and fix them.

White hat hacker

What are white hat hackers?

Not all hackers have the intention to cause harm to regular users. The term hacker, when used generally, is defined as someone who has the deliberation to perform cyber-criminal activities to abuse someone’s privacy and compromise their data.

But, a hacker can be anyone, regardless of its intentions, who use their studies and practices to execute hacking strategies and bypass security layers of your network or computer system.

Hacking itself is not illegal unless, it’s performed unethically against the laws and regulations, breaking the code of conduct. Many government agencies and companies hire hackers to secure their systems and networks.

Moreover, not everyone possesses the knowledge of the cyber world where some question of what is a white hat hacker? Or what is involved in white hat hacking? Are just some of the curious questions in the digital age we live in?

Hackers are categorized across 3 layers “Black”, “White”, and “Grey” hat hackers. Every term is with western culture, black creating a negative feeling, white ensuring peacefulness and Grey that is a mixture of both ethical and unethical means of hacking. However, two main factors determine the type of hacker you are dealing with, their intentions, and whether or not they are following the laws of society.

Black hat hackers

Like all hackers out there, black hat uses their extensive skill and knowledge to infiltrate any system or network with the primary objective to access sensitive data, bypassing security protocols. Some black hat hackers do this just for fun, while some may break security protocols in the attempt to have some financial gain and cause harm to normal users.

These black hats can range from injecting malicious scripts in software to expert hackers who aim to steal information, especially financial, personal information and sign-in credentials.

Not only do they aim to steal data but to alter and destroy it as well. Protecting yourself against black hats is very imperative in the technical age that we live in, so some countermeasures need to be taken to ensure you don’t leave yourself transparent to the whole world.

For instance, not sharing sensitive data over any network such as financial statements, removing Exif, or metadata from your pictures and many other things concerning black hat security.

White hat hackers

A perfect white-hat hacker definition would be someone who uses their skills to obtain information through ethical means. White hat hacker can be hired by firms as cybersecurity specialists that attempt to perform hacking to find unfilled gaps in any system or networks.

White hat hackers use the same process flow as black hat hackers but the main difference being, they ask for the owner’s permission, which makes it completely legal. White hat hacker performs pen testing, performs vulnerability assessments for firms to identify any leakages within networks, ensuring to solidifying the firm's security structure. There are even courses, training modules and certifications involving ethical hacking.

Grey hat hackers

There are always not two sides of the page, but sometimes there are some grey areas too. A grey hat hacker is someone who will look for weaknesses in the system without asking the owner. If the issue is found, he will report it to the owner but will sometimes ask for a small concession before performing to fix it.

But if the owner denies the request, he reveals the exploit online for others to take advantage of, particularly, black hat hackers. This form of hacking is still by term illegal since the hacker did not ask for permission from the owner before attempting an attack on the system. These types of hackers don’t have bad intentions, they are just looking to find out vulnerabilities in the system and to earn some extra cash or simply for their purposes.

The word hacker, by even speaking about it depicts a very negative connotation, it is important to keep in mind that not all hackers are made the same way. If white hats weren’t working out there to find a weakness and stop cybersecurity attacks, then there would be a lot of cyber-crime involved, exploiting vulnerabilities and gathering highly sensitive information, leaving users almost open to the entire world.

Ethical hackers?

An ethical hacker or ethical hackers, also referred to as a white-hat hacker, are those individuals who highlight security vulnerabilities through penetration testing. Penetration testing is an attempt to bring forward the vulnerabilities in a system. These information security individuals are rigorous in their testing techniques and do it to improve the overall security landscape of the system.