What is a Black Hat Hacker?

‘Hackers’, often portrayed on media as the bad guys, is not a true or actual meaning of Hackers. Generally, hackers are the people with a creative mindset, anyone who is curious in nature, a problem solver, and essentially someone who loves to solve complex challenges. However, in recent days, we are seeing ‘hackers’ being used interchangeably to refer ‘threat actors’ and ‘cyber adversaries’; so, there’s probably more to this. In this article, we will explain what a hacker is and what it means to face a black hat hacker, so you know what your business is up against. Just as many hats represents a different lens or perspective on a particular issue, as suggested on the ‘Six thinking hat’ – a role-playing model developed in the mid 1980’s, we can somehow connect this idea of thinking hats such as Black, White, Green, Gray etc to the cyber domain. The most widely referred hats on the cyber domain are black and white.

So, what is a Hacker?

While most of us think of hackers in relation to illegal activities and cybercrime, the term isn’t intrinsically negative. Hackers were originally just people who liked to dabble in electronics and play with computer systems. When first used in the 1960s, the term hacker referred to someone who was able to increase the efficiency of a computer by hacking excess code from a program. This then evolved to refer to anyone who had advanced technical abilities or a high degree of creativity in their approach to technical problems.

So, hackers are not inherently bad; they often just enjoy using their computer and networking skills to overcome technical problems. However, nowadays, as well as solving problems, the term hacker also refers to people who use their technical abilities to gain unauthorised access to systems or networks with malicious intent. And these are the hackers that your business needs to defend against.

What is a Black Hat Hacker?

As you may have guessed, the black hat hackers are the bad guys, also referred to as threat actors and/or cyber adversaries in recent days. The term comes from the colour coding scheme of 1950s westerns, where the baddies wore black hats, and the good guys wore lighter colours. Black hat hacker’s intentions are always selfish or harmful in nature and involve illegal activities. They will have expertise and knowledge of how to break into computer networks and bypass security protocols and will use that knowledge to cause harm and defraud others.

Black hat hackers do what they do for a variety of reasons. While often to make money, sometimes they are motivated by the pleasure of causing chaos, ruining someone’s reputation, or gaining notoriety. And each of these motives gives them a sense of achievement, which keeps them coming back time and time again.

How Do Black Hat Hackers Operate?

A black hat hacker can take many forms; there are amateurs, professional criminals, and nation-state actors. The latter are employed by governments to steal confidential data and cause political unrest in other countries. However, while black hat hackers form a significant intelligence-gathering tool for governments, it is more common to find them working alone or with organised crime gangs. Either way, they are bad news for your business and employ similar techniques to infiltrate systems, steal data and commit fraud. These tactics include:

  • Exploiting vulnerabilities – they search for security gaps, such as bugs in software or weak IT systems to exploit them and use them as an entry point.
  • Writing malicious code – they develop and distribute malware to hack devices, services, or websites.
  • Conducting social engineering – they impersonate trusted individuals to trick people into downloading or clicking on malicious links and attachments.
  • Deploying phishing attacks – they send fraudulent emails to deceive people into exposing sensitive information.
  • Deploying ransomware – they encrypt and block access to sensitive and business-critical data and then blackmail victims into paying a ransom.
  • Selling sensitive data – they sell sensitive or confidential data on the dark web to enable other black hat hackers to execute identity theft and financial fraud.
     

How Can You Protect Your Business?

Black hat hacking is a global problem and one that is extremely difficult to stop. However, there is plenty your business can do to increase its cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of an attack. To improve your adversary protection, you may need to put on a different hat. Stay tuned for our next blog article, where we’ll examine what white hat hackers are and how they can help your business.

If you'd like to know how our security assurance services can strengthen your defences against black hat hacking, request a consultation with our team today.

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