Types of Hackers and What They Do: White, Black, and Grey

Hacking often refers to the unauthorized intrusion into a network or computer; normally carried out by one or more “hackers.” However, a hacker can be anyone. They can be an individual like you or me.  They can work solo or be employed by an organization that has the motive to disrupt something or cause havoc––unnecessarily. Often, they look to alter security systems to achieve their goal, which differs from the actual purpose of the system.

There are also many organizations who hire hackers as a part of their staff. These hackers use their skills to find flaws, vulnerable areas, and weak spots in the organization’s security system. This is done to find and fix the weaknesses and prevent malicious hackers from breaking in the security system.

Types of Hackers around the Globe

White, black, and grey refer to the relationship between the hacker and the systems they are attacking.

‘Black Hat’ Hackers

The term “black hat” originated from Western movies, where the bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white hats.[1]

A black-hat hacker is an individual who attempts to gain unauthorized entry into a system or network to exploit them for malicious reasons. The black-hat hacker does not have any permission or authority to compromise their targets. They try to inflict damage by compromising security systems, altering functions of websites and networks, or shutting down systems. They often do so to steal or gain access to passwords, financial information, and other personal data.

‘White Hat’ Hackers

White-hat hackers, on the other hand, are deemed to be the good guys, working with organizations to strengthen the security of a system. A white hat has permission to engage the targets and to compromise them within the prescribed rules of engagement.

White-hat hackers are often referred to as ethical hackers. This individual specializes in ethical hacking tools, techniques, and methodologies to secure an organization’s information systems.

Unlike black-hat hackers, ethical hackers exploit security networks and look for backdoors when they are legally permitted to do so. White-hat hackers always disclose every vulnerability they find in the company’s security system so that it can be fixed before they are being exploited by malicious actors.

Some Fortune 50 companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google also use white-hat hackers.

‘Grey Hat’ Hackers

Grey hats exploit networks and computer systems in the way that black hats do, but do so without any malicious intent, disclosing all loopholes and vulnerabilities to law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies.

Usually, grey-hat hackers surf the net and hack into computer systems to notify the administrator or the owner that their system/network contains one or more vulnerabilities that must be fixed immediately. Grey hats may also extort the hacked, offering to correct the defect for a nominal fee.

Common Hacking Tools

To accomplish a perfect hack, hackers implement a wide variety of techniques such as:


A rootkit is a program or set of software tools that allow threat actors to gain remote access to control a computer system that interacts or connects with the internet. Originally, a rootkit was developed to open a backdoor in a system to fix specific software issues. Unfortunately, this program is now used by hackers to destabilize the control of an operating system from its legitimate operator or user.

There are different ways to install rootkits in a victim’s system, the most famous of them being social engineering and phishing attacks. Once rootkits are installed in the system, it secretly allows the hacker to access and control the system, giving them the opportunity to bring the system down or steal crucial data.


This is a specially designed tool that logs or records every key pressed on a system. Keyloggers record every keystroke by clinging to the API (application programming interface) when typed through the computer keyboard. The recorded file then gets saved, which includes data like usernames, website visit details, screenshots, opened applications, etc.

Keyloggers can capture credit card numbers, personal messages, mobile numbers, passwords, and other details––as long as they are typed. Normally, keyloggers arrive as malware that allows cybercriminals to steal sensitive data.

Vulnerability Scanner

A vulnerability scanner classifies and detects various system weaknesses in networks, computers, communication systems, etc. This is one of the most common practices used by ethical hackers to find potential loopholes and fix them on an immediate basis. On the other hand, vulnerability scanners can also be used by black-hat hackers to check the system for potential weak spots in order to exploit the system.

Common Hacking Techniques

SQL Injection Attack

Structured Query Language (SQL) is designed to exploit the data in a database. SQL Injection is a type of cyber-attack that targets databases through SQL statements to trick systems.  This kind of attack is executed via a website interface that attempts to issue SQL commands through a database to hack usernames, passwords, and other database information.

Web applications and websites that are poorly coded are prone to SQL injection attacks because these web-based applications contain user-input fields (such as search and login pages, product and support request forms, comments section, etc.) that are vulnerable and can be easily hacked by manipulating the codes.

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)

DDoS is a type of malicious attack that distorts normal traffic to enter a server, flooding the network traffic (resulting in a denial of service). It acts like a traffic jam that clogs the road and prevents regular traffic from arriving at their destination. Devices that easily connect to the network (such as computers, IoT devices, mobile phones, etc.) are prone to DDoS attacks.

Want to learn more about ethical hacking? Our Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) helps candidates upgrade their skills and experience by learning to overcome webserver attacks, malware threats, social engineering, IoT hacking, and much more.


  1. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-counterintuitive-history-of-black-hats-white-hats-and-villains
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