1. White Hat Hacker
Definition – What does White Hat Hacker mean?
A white hat hacker is a computer security specialist who breaks into protected systems and networks to test and asses their security. White hat hackers use their skills to improve security by exposing vulnerabilities before malicious hackers (known as black hat hackers) can detect and exploit them. Although the methods used are similar, if not identical, to those employed by malicious hackers, white hat hackers have permission to employ them against the organization that has hired them.
Techopedia explains White Hat Hacker
White hat hackers are usually seen as hackers who use their skills to benefit society. They may be reformed black hat hackers or they may simply be well-versed in the methods and techniques used by hackers. An organization can hire these consultants to do tests and implement best practices that make them less vulnerable to malicious hacking attempts in the future.
For the most part, the term is synonymous with “ethical hacker.” The term comes from old Western movies where the cliché was for the “good guy” to wear a white cowboy hat. Of course, the “bad guys” always seemed to wear a black hat.
2. Gray Hat Hacker
Definition – What does Gray Hat Hacker mean?
A gray hat hacker (also spelled grey hat hacker) is someone who may violate ethical standards or principles, but without the malicious intent ascribed to black hat hackers. Gray hat hackers may engage in practices that seem less than completely above board, but are often operating for the common good. Gray hat hackers represent the middle ground between white hat hackers, who operate on behalf of those maintaining secure systems, and black hat hackers who act maliciously to exploit vulnerabilities in systems.
Techopedia explains Gray Hat Hacker
Many people see the world of IT security as a black-and-white world. However, gray hat hacking does play a role in the security environment. One of the most common examples given of a gray hat hacker is someone who exploits a security vulnerability in order to spread public awareness that the vulnerability exists. In this case, experts might say that the difference between a white hat hacker and a gray hat hacker is that the gray hat hacker exploits the vulnerability publicly, which allows other black hat hackers to take advantage of it. By contrast, a white hat hacker may do it privately in order to alert the company, without making the results public.
3. Black Hat Hacker
Definition – What does Black Hat Hacker mean?
A black hat hacker is a person who attempts to find computer security vulnerabilities and exploit them for personal financial gain or other malicious reasons. This differs from white hat hackers, which are security specialists employed to use hacking methods to find security flaws that black hat hackers may exploit.
Black hat hackers can inflict major damage on both individual computer users and large organizations by stealing personal financial information, compromising the security of major systems, or shutting down or altering the function of websites and networks.
Techopedia explains Black Hat Hacker
The term “black hat hacker” is derived from old Western movies, in which the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats.
Black hat hackers can range from teenage amateurs who spread computer viruses to networks of criminals who steal credit card numbers and other financial information. Black hat hacker activities include planting keystroke-monitoring programs to steal data and launching attacks to disable access to websites. Malicious hackers sometimes employ non-computer methods to obtain data, for example, calling and assuming an identity in order to get a user’s password.
Black hat hackers have their own conventions, of which two of the more prominent are DEFCON and BlackHat. Black hat conventions are often attended by security professionals and academics who want to learn from black hat hackers. Law enforcement officials also attend these conventions, sometimes even making use of them to apprehend a black hat hacker, as occurred in 2001 when a Russian programmer was arrested the day after DEFCON for writing software that decrypted an Adobe e-book format.