The Internet and other emerging technologies have changed the way we work beyond what we could have imagined a few decades ago. Even though this progress has reduced the physical burden on workers, it has also left the business and personal data exposed to amplified threats of loss, damage, or theft.
Unauthorized users can gain entry into your IT systems using unscrupulous means. They can not only steal your data but also cause irreparable damage to your business’s IT infrastructure. These criminals are known as hackers, and they have immense technical knowledge of modern computer systems.
As with most labels, hackers can be good or bad. That is, some of them work with security agencies to find the inherent weaknesses in systems so they can be patched up in time before someone with bad intentions gains entry.
The unethical hackers may be looking for trade secrets, money, political revenge and can target businesses or governments to get access to the right data.
They may also target financial data, customer information, industry secrets, etc., to reach their objectives. However, they mostly target medium and small-sized businesses – 70% of the SMBs stated that they had experienced a cyberattack in 2018.
Each industry is susceptible to specific types of hacks. And that makes it essential to know what hackers do when they break into your systems to effectively guard your networks.
Let’s look at the different types of hackers, their techniques, motivations, threats to businesses, and how you can protect yourself from such attacks.
Table of Contents
- What Is Hacking?
- How Do Hackers Operate?
- Types Of Hackers
- Types Of Unethical Hacking Practices
- Warning Signs of Hacking
- How To Prevent Your Computer Systems From Hacking Attempts?
- Wrapping Up
What Is Hacking?
Hacking is an act of exploration. It helps hackers identify the weaknesses in a network or a computer system and find methods to breach its defenses.
Some hackers leave chaos and destruction in their wake. In contrast, many others play a role in creating a better, safer internet for everyone.
This means that hacking in itself is not a malicious or criminal act. However, if the knowledge is used to compromise the security of personal accounts, computer systems, networks, and digital devices, a crime is being committed.
Even though the media usually portrays hackers as cyber-criminals who steal data and wreak all types of digital havoc, this type of criminal activity is appropriately termed cracking.
Computer networks are necessary for businesses, especially if they need to cater to a global clientele and stay in touch with their stakeholders. However, if this network isn’t secured with the right measures, it’s easy to hack and infiltrate.
The stolen information could be used to commit fraudulent activities such as stealing customer and employee data, privacy invasion, personal data, etc. Cybercrimes cost millions of dollars each year to unprepared businesses.
How Do Hackers Operate?
Hackers can perform malicious activities, spread bugs, and breach personal information on private computer systems.
But how is it possible for a human to defeat a machine?
By speaking its language.
Hackers can find unsecured ports or pretend to be someone they aren’t to convince a network to let them in. Every hacker understands and learns the following tactics to create malware and loopholes in the system:
Denial-of-Service (DoS) – This occurs after a programmer develops a site that receives more traffic than it can handle. This leaves it insecure to anyone who has the resources to access it. If a hacker is interested in a website, they can overload it with more traffic and data than it was designed to manage.
SQL Injection Attack – This is where the SQL language is used to connect with databases, allowing hackers to read sensitive data, modify it and even execute admin operations on your database. It lets them access substantial amounts of private information to corrupt and sell.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) – This is where hackers take advantage of a web security vulnerability by masquerading as a user. They add a malicious code to a website that runs inside a visitor’s browser to compromise their interaction with the website. As a result, the attacker gets full access to user data and credentials.
Hijacking – Websites or apps are set up so that every online session requires users to have unique credentials. A hacker can impede between a remote server and a requesting computer, pretending to be the actual user. They end up with the credentials and can get into the network.
Credential Reuse – There is a substantial black market for buying and selling stolen data, and some hackers can go on to reuse this data to cause further damage. Hackers depend on the fact that people use the same passwords for different accounts. So once they manage to capture the server details for one account, they can easily corrupt the user’s profiles on other platforms.
Types Of Hackers
At its core, hacking is about fearless innovation, blatant creativity, and the boldness needed to drive past standard thought modes. But not all hackers are satisfied to hack for their own sake.
Many professionals and specialists can scrutinize your security weaknesses and help you ensure the safety of your networks. Still, more needs to be done to educate the customer about cybersecurity risks and threats.
Creating awareness about such things is the initial step to empower yourself against cybercrime. This way, you can make informed decisions about how you can protect your business from cybercrime acts.
Here is a roundup of the different types of hackers in the market to help you gain adequate knowledge. The types of hackers are often mentioned with different colored ‘hats,’ each having a diverse implication for the specific target.
Let’s look at the hacking community and see what each hacker does, their motives, aims, and how it can impact your business.
Black Hat Hackers
Motive: Monetary/Financial Gains
Black hat hackers are knowledgeable computer experts with the wrong intention. They hack other systems to get access to those systems as an unauthorized user. They don’t have lawful entry. On obtaining the entrance, they might destroy the system or steal the data to harm the system owners.
The hacking practices of a black hat hacker depend on their hacking knowledge and capacity. But the hackers’ intentions make them a criminal. However, it is difficult to gauge the intent behind the hacker’s malicious actions and the extent of the data breach.
Black hat hackers are the cloaked cybercriminals who nimbly breach the computer system to pursue unlawful aims.
For instance, if a black hat hacker notices a vulnerability in a software piece, they will take unfair advantage of that flaw for criminal purposes. Sometimes they even try to bribe or coerce people to hack systems for them, which is called an insider threat.
Breaking into other’s systems solely with harmful intentions is the primary goal of black hat hackers. From stealing credit card data to modifying public databases, they may commit such acts merely for monetary benefits or gain fame from exploiting the system frameworks’ ambiguities.
Famous black hat hackers have particularly robbed financial institutions and banks and invaluable private data of many.
Black Hat hackers are at the topmost level when it comes to the business risk list. Their methods vary and range from intricate to primary, so you can potentially protect your business from such system attacks. But if their attempts are successful, it could lead to devastating results for your customers and ultimately your business.
White Hat Or Ethical Hackers
Motive: To research inconsistencies in security networks
The white hat hackers, also referred to as ethical hackers, are experienced computer professionals who profoundly know cybersecurity. They are certified or authorized to hack systems. White hat hackers test the internet infrastructures to identify the loopholes and vulnerabilities in the system.
They make algorithms and carry out various methodologies to hack and break into systems, with the primary purpose to strengthen those systems. White hat hackers mostly work for organizations and governments specifically to test the cybersecurity level in an organization.
Once these hackers identify the security vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system, it ensures to fix them so as to prevent the system from attacks by external sources.
Furthermore, white hat hackers work according to the guidelines and regulations set by their respective governments.
Companies deliberately hire white hat hackers for the identification of any security flaws or vulnerabilities— a technique called penetration testing. That way, companies can improve their security and strengthen their systems before a black hat hacker breaks into their system.
In addition to security, ethical hackers can test an organization’s system ability and resistance to real-world security attacks through phishing campaigns. This can help to recognize areas that require additional protection.
Famous white hat hackers have effectively ensured that corporations maintain a robust system framework that is unbreakable against any different type of hacking. These hackers practice ethical hacking and make the Internet a safer and better place.
Businesses can remain well protected from security attacks in the digital world while getting ongoing help in case of a violation.
Grey Hat Hacker
Motive: Personal gains/enjoyment
A grey hat hacker is usually the one who has mixed intentions. They fall in between the white hat hacker and the black hat hacker. However, they are not authorized, hackers. They can have good as well as bad intentions when it comes to hacking purposes.
With a grey hat hacker, their intention is the key consideration to determine what type of hacker they are. For instance, if they commit it for personal gain, then that hacker is deemed a grey hat hacker, as the color implies. They break and exploit systems for their benefit.
Famous grey hat hackers have misused company systems and made the data public in order to bring vast information datasets to the limelight that comprises wrongdoings.
Grey hat hackers break into the systems first and ask for consent later, unlike ethical hackers who get permission to access the system in advance. They start by probing a network to find a security flaw and navigate the vulnerabilities by providing them with a solution.
While grey hat hacking can lead to positive outcomes, it’s illegal to practice this type of security hacking without prior approval.
Despite having a combination of skill sets, Grey Hat hackers rarely try to do anything incredibly harmful. They break into systems merely because they can. Once they do it, they move on. Grey Hat hackers essentially contribute to the mass of the hacking community.
Blue Hat Hackers
Of the many different types of hackers, a blue hat hacker is an amateur. They utilize readily available methods but explicitly target a firm with an evil intention. Typically, these are said to be revenge attacks made by leveraging unprofessional techniques such as affecting a site using a script with too much traffic.
Furthermore, blue hat hackers use their hacking skills as a weapon to earn popularity and sometimes to settle their scores with adversaries. They can be dangerous due to their purpose and intent behind the malicious actions.
All in all, the blue Hat hackers find the existing code for viruses and malware then alter it according to their requirements. They can use this code against an individual or a business entity who may have wronged them to inflict their vengeance.
Red Hat Hackers
Motive: Vigilante Justice
Red hat hackers are intertwined with Eagle-Eyed hackers. They are somewhat similar to ethical/ white hackers. The red hat hackers fundamentally have an intent to stop and prevent the malware attack of black hat hackers.
The primary difference between white hat hackers and red hat hackers is the hacking process. Red hat hackers are quite callous when counteracting with malware or dealing with black hat hackers. They continue to attack and sometimes end up replacing the entire set up of the system. This means they take the Black Hat hacker’s arsenal and overturn it against them.
Green Hat Hackers
Motive: In the learning, phase to be full-blown hackers
Green hat hackers are initial learners in the hacking world. They intend to learn, educate themselves and strive to become full-fledged, smart hackers. They look for potential opportunities to gain knowledge from already successful and experienced hackers.
A green hat hacker is typically accountable for no real action but can be easily distinguished because of their intent to understand and learn how hacking works. They are often a part of massive online learning communities, where they would watch tutorials and videos about hacking essentials.
Motive: Causing disruption and chaos
The Script Kiddies are again the amateurs in the world of hacking. They try and strive to break it into the system through scripts from their fellow hackers. Script kiddies mostly hack the networks, systems, or websites.
Furthermore, the intention behind their hacking activities is merely to get attention and popularity from their peers. Script Kiddies don’t have adequate knowledge regarding the hacking process and are juveniles in the field of hacking.
They are the newbies of the hacking realm but can’t do much damage. That’s because they have very little knowledge and skill.
From directing overcapacity traffic or continually running transactions, these hackers’ impact is considerable, but not that much.
Motive: Solely for government purposes
The government employs specific hackers to get news about other countries. Such hackers are known as nation/state-sponsored hackers.
They leverage their skill set and knowledge to access confidential information from different countries, staying prepared for any impending danger to their homeland. They only report to their respective governments.
Motive: Social or political gain
Hacktivists specifically tend and intend to break into government-linked websites. These hackers present themselves as activists, as the name indicates.
A hacktivist can be a bunch of anonymous hackers or even an individual whose objective is to access government-related networks and websites. The data they gather from government files are then used for social or personal political gain. They hack infrastructures and systems to seek attention for social causes.
Hacktivism comprises uploading promotional material and defacing websites so that the audience can receive information based on the intention of the hackers and not the website developer.
Whistleblower Or Malicious Insider
Motive: Specific purpose
This is an individual who exposes confidential information of their organization. The aim behind this malign behavior may be a personal grudge, or the specific person may have come across the illicit activities in an organization. The reason for exposure defines the intent behind their malicious act. These individuals are called whistleblowers.
Types Of Unethical Hacking Practices
Evil practices of hacking have been around, and it has only gotten stronger increasingly. It is projected that 230 thousand malware samples are created every day. In addition, four thousand ransomware attacks happen daily.
A pattern helps hackers get unauthorized access to software in computer systems, an online account, or a website. Here are some of the most common unethical hacking practices.
Vulnerability scanning. A hacker probes a website or system to find any data flaws or vulnerabilities.
Cracking a password. Like vulnerability scanning, hackers scrutinize and determine vulnerabilities to help them break the user’s password.
Spooking. Hackers develop malicious websites and would portray them as trustworthy and legit. When the users access them and navigate them, hackers can quickly access the traffic’s computer network.
Rootkit. Hackers build a program to have the ability to control the operating system of a computer.
Trojan horse. In this, the hacker builds a ‘backdoor’ that allows them to access all the computer system information.
Virus. The most common and occurs on a day-to-day, a virus ‘infects’ a folder and then deliberately spread the file around by replicating it.
Keyloggers. A hacker makes a malicious backdoor to maintain a record of every keystroke.
Clickjacking. Clickjacking, also referred to as UI Redress, is where the actual user interface element is unknown. When you click the fake one, spam messages typically pay-by-click popup. However, a user can run under the threat of having their data breached.
Bait and switch. With this, the hackers buy advertising space on a particular page, with the intent to direct the users to websites that are faulty and malicious. The same goes for software and apps.
Warning Signs of Hacking
From banking to email, computer systems and networks are the leading hubs for online activities—no wonder these are the typical targets for hackers.
The different type of hacking news typically targets and revolve around significant corporations. However, you can be a victim of hacking at home, too, with your personal information lifted from email accounts, computers, etc., to launch further attacks.
These attacks are more than merely an inconvenience – they put your data at stake and potentially at risk of scam.
Here are some of the initial warning signs of hacking to watch out for to help you out.
Your Phone Or Computer Starts To Act Strangely
A series of unpredicted changes to your phone or computer devices may point to hackers. Check for your passwords that are not working, change in settings, and the presence of new programs or files that you can’t recall adding yourself. If your microphone and camera activate when they are not supposed to, it can be a strong signal that any of your devices have been hacked.
Your Antivirus Software Is Disabled
This one is a major red flag, as it is the sole job of antivirus software to keep your systems and networks safe. If it has been deactivated without being in your knowledge, it indicates a hacking attempt.
Your Online Traffic Is Redirected
Hackers in your router or your browser can turn the online traffic to malicious sites. They can also modify your search engine by default to the one that curates your browser with advertisements.
Someone Is Spending Your Money
One of the most apparent reasons behind identity theft is the monetary benefit. Be on the watch out and check your accounts frequently for any unidentified expenses or questionable activities.
Your Passwords Stop Working
When hackers access one of your accounts, a common thing they do is change your password to lock you out. Reset your password if you can, enable the two-factor authentication, and then notify the service or website about the instance.
You See Way More Popups And Ads Than Usual
Hackers enjoy curating your feeds with ads, as they get to earn money for every ad you view. An uptick in popups and ad quantity and frequencies may indicate hacking.
How To Prevent Your Computer Systems From Hacking Attempts?
More than ever, businesses are experiencing disastrous and massive hacking and phishing attacks. While trying to protect your systems from hackers may seem daunting, it’s possible to mitigate the risks and protect data by being prudent.
Automatic Security Updates
When you install security systems for software, make sure to choose that your security and antivirus software update as well as scan for viruses automatically.
Today, you can easily register and set your email or phone number to your online accounts and personal software. That way, even in case a password is forgotten or gets expired, you can recover the account through a specific code sent to your email address or phone number.
Frequently Uninstall Unused Apps Or Software
It is essential to keep your security patches up to date regularly to prevent malicious hackers from installing viruses or finding loopholes.
Don’t Interact With Emails
Even if it seems legit, don’t open or respond to emails that you can’t recall subscribing for or identify the sender.
Stay Authentic On Social Media
The same goes for your social media. When you accept a request on different platforms, you open the possibilities for that individual to access your information. Unethical hackers don’t have a moral compass that stops them from taking screenshots, exploiting photos, creating false content, and pretending to be you to gain access to your contacts.
Create Strong Passwords
When you make a new username or an account, you are not merely asked to create a password with numerical, alphabetic, and special characters to bother you. Passwords such as 123, familiar to your name, or somewhat guessable make it even easier for unethical hackers to breach your privacy and data.
Use A Trustworthy And Official Security System
It is vital for computer security and safety to download and install antivirus software and other devices like smartwatches and smartphones, installing applications from accredited app stores.
Never Save Your Accounts And Passwords’ Data
Even though this sounds like the most transparent way to protect your systems from hackers, it isn’t. One out of every 130 emails comprises malware. Therefore, it is never recommended to save your password, bank, and login information on any of the devices that is not for your personal use.
Information is readily available as well as obtainable over the Internet. It can do a world of good if it falls into the right hands. But the wrong people can use the same data to wreak havoc, destroy lives and ground entire countries.
The intent behind the hacking activities is what sets a good hacker apart from an unethical one.
Their ability to use available knowledge to harm governments, individuals, or business entities for personal gain is what makes a hacker dangerous.
The way different types of hackers operate depends on their aims and motives. The kind of attack and its intensity is essentially based on the hackers’ capability and skill to identify the ambiguity and penetrate computer systems’ and networks’ security.
This has constructed a massive challenge for governments and organizations to keep their cybersecurity updated at all times.