The word HACKER does not usually come with many positive, complimentary connotations. In fact, the term pretty much always creates a mental image of a hooded villain illegally cracking into a system. But while most hackers have similar skill-sets and objectives (i.e. to break into systems), the core difference lies in their intentions.

According to Norton, a hacker is basically anyone who uses their computer software knowledge to bypass or break down a network or computer’s security measures. The act of hacking is not actually illegal unless it’s happening without the owner’s consent. So, almost always, hacking is illegal. After all, how many times have you been asked for permission to have your system compromised?

With cybercrime spiraling out of control and hackers continually becoming more inventive and innovative, corporations and government entities have decided to join forces and play the same game as them.

In fact, a lot of companies end up employing hackers, or rewarding hackers through bug bounty programs– a scheme which invites computer experts to look for flaws within an existing system in order to make it more secure.

So, what’s the difference between white hat hackers, black hat hackers, and gray hat hackers? Let’s take a look.

White Hat Hackers

The quickest way to make a distinction between the type of hacker you’re referring to is by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Are they breaking the law?

  2. What are their motivations?

If what they’re doing is legal, with the company’s knowledge and permission, they’re almost certainly a white hat hacker.

White hat hackers are also known as “ethical hackers” since they adhere to certain standards while invading your privacy.

They usually carry out vulnerability assessments for companies and in fact, white hat hacking is now a recognized cybersecurity profession– having its own global conferences, training, and certifications.

Black Hat Hackers

So, obviously, these are the bad guys. These are the criminals you can thank for holding your data ransom, draining your bank account, or making your laptop mine Monero.

Black hat hackers write malware to infect systems, usually for personal financial gain. They can also be involved in espionage or simply have a penchant for revealing private data. While many of these hackers are amateurs, they can sometimes also be involved in serious cybercrime and other dark nefarious deeds.

Gray Hat Hackers

Not everything in life is black and white, and not with hackers either (although, it may be hard to know where to draw the line). Gray hat hackers don’t usually operate ethically, but they come clean in the end.

So, a gray hat hacker may look for vulnerabilities in a company’s system without them knowing. But once they find a way in, they’ll inform the owner, perhaps requesting employment or asking for some kind of compensation.

Gray hat hackers may also simply be gifted computer scientists who are curious about other companies or people but keep the information to themselves. They may not splash your darkest secrets all over the web, but they could still be spying on you from afar.

If that sounds illegal, that’s because it is, but gray hat hackers are treated with a lot more leniency than black hat hackers.

Final Take

Many cryptocurrency companies make use of white hat hackers, including Monero and Dash, so that they can stay one step ahead of the many black hat hackers that lurk on the internet. So, it’s important to remember that not all hackers are created equal and not all hacking is criminal.


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