Hackers: criminals who prey upon the innocent, steal personal information, hold computers hostage, and oftentimes, escape without repercussions. While there are hackers who fit this stereotype, many hackers use their skills for good. By definition, a hacker is someone who uses his or her computer skills to infiltrate a security system. To determine whether a hacker is using their skills for good or evil, one must look at the hat they are wearing.
Hackers that wear a black hat are driven by money, or popularity, to break into a computer system. Once inside, they steal, destroy or hold information captive until a ransom is paid. Black hats are the metaphorical bad guys, and are also known as cyber or computer criminals.
White hat hackers are the opposite of black hat hackers. With the permission from a system’s owner, these ethical hackers break into a system to expose holes, or weak spots, in the security system. These hackers then divulge any weaknesses to the company so they can be corrected. White hats are the good guys.
Hackers that wear a grey hat operate in the grey area. Grey hats will break into a system without permission, and then inform the administrator that there are security flaws in their system. While they do not exploit vulnerabilities for personal gain, like black hats, they also do not have the authorization to invade a system, like white hats.
Hackers do not fall into one overarching category. They divide themselves into sub-categories based on their intentions and accept the hat of their faction. By gaining a better understand of what hat a hacker is wearing, a user will be able to identify whether a hacker will help protect them or steal information.
Author: Emily Cieslewicz
Gil, Paul. “What Is a ‘Black Hat’ Hacker? A ‘White Hat’ Hacker?” Lifewire, 22 Jan. 2018
O’Donnell, Andy. “What Color Us Your Hacker Hat?” Lifewire, 19 Oct. 2016,