What's the difference between a whitehat hacker and a blackhat hacker?

If you thought all hackers were the same, you would be wrong. Regardless of the connotations that follows the word "hacker," there are also some good guys known as whitehat hackers.

The word "hacker" in the current threat landscape triggers fear. While such a response is justified, not all hackers are the same. You could say that it depends on the color of the hat they wear, as blackhat and whitehat hackers aren't alike (and I'm not talking about a fashion statement).

However, the real difference between the two comes down to their intention. Blackhat hackers have criminal intent, while whitehat hackers want to help people and organizations. 

It's like a game of cat and mouse. While threat actors try to find ways to breach enterprise infrastructure, we have good guys that "think like bad guys," securing potential vulnerabilities and averting security incidents.

What is a blackhat hacker?

A blackhat hacker is the one you think of whenever the word "hacking" is mentioned. They closely resemble the stereotypical Hollywood portrayal of hackers, but without the hoodies (at least for the most part) and dark, dingy basements. 

Blackhat hackers are intelligent and use their advanced technical skills to initiate botnet attacks, deploy rootkits, ransomware attacks, social engineering campaigns, install trojans, and more. 

They also engage in cyberattacks to understand how an enterprise network works, write malware, and trick security protocols. They breach systems without the owners' knowledge, and their intentions aren't pure. 

As you guessed, they're always intent on engaging in nefarious activities like the following:

  • Blackmail (both individuals and companies)
  • Defraud businesses
  • Make money (by stealing or through ransom payments)
  • Initiate societal and political instability
  • Ruin reputations
  • Theft

Some hackers just hack for fun. These individuals are referred to as "greyhat hackers." Although they're aware that it's illegal, they breach systems just because they can.

What is a whitehat hacker?

Whitehat hackers or ethical hackers are the good guys. They're mostly cybersecurity experts who "think like blackhat hackers" to test devices, IT infrastructure, and networks following blackhat hacking methods. 

These hacking or testing methods include the following:

Whitehat hackers usually don't operate alone. They're often hired by companies and individuals who want to identify weaknesses in their systems before they're found out by criminals. 

Whitehat hackers also engage in cybersecurity education (to teach users about cyber threat prevention), help organizations strengthen their security posture, maintain regulatory compliance, and formulate contingency plans to manage an active security incident effectively.

Do I need an ethical hacker?

If you're asking yourself this question, the answer is "yes, you probably could use one."

In the current threat landscape, everyone is a live target. Threat actors target government agencies, multinationals, and small businesses alike. 

As hackers are innovative, continuously evolve with sophisticated attacks, and are relentless, it's more than a challenge for in-house security teams to ensure robust security and compliance.

With the help of an ethical "good guy" hacker, businesses of all sizes can identify vulnerabilities missed by in-house security teams and resolve them before they're exploited by a blackhat "bad guy" hacker.

Do you need a whitehat hacker to fortify your network and infrastructure? We can help. Schedule a commitment-free consultation with an ethical hacker now.

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