What is a Black-Hat Hacker?

What do black hat hackers do and how can cybersecurity professionals prevent this malicious activity? Find out in this article!
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Black hat hackers are those who work to threaten computer security with malicious intent. These computer criminals got their name from old Western movies in which the cowboys who wore the black hats were the “bad guys” in contrast to the well-intentioned white hat cowboys. The label has stuck to these hackers that work to infiltrate secure networks for their own benefit.

What Do Black Hat Hackers Do?

Black hat hackers work to break into computer networks or systems for a variety of reasons. These reasons include, accessing private data, disrupting networks, or monetary gain. Cyber espionage is another motive of these cyber criminals that can wreak havoc on networks and private information.

Black Hat vs Grey Hat

Black hat hackers differ from grey hat hackers in that black hats intentionally work with malicious intent for their own gain. Grey hat hackers are like black hats in that they do not have permission to work to uncover system vulnerabilities. They won’t, however, tell other hackers how to repeat finding the vulnerabilities or perform illegal activities with their new found information. 

Grey hat hackers do work in a “grey area” because, while they won’t exploit the weaknesses they find in an illegal way, they won’t always tell companies what they have found. Instead, they often contact companies to fix the problems in exchange for compensation. This has become a point of discussion as many feel that this activity is borderline illegal since the hackers do not have permission and aren’t necessarily acting ethically. This differs from white hat hackers who always act ethically and with permission and never for personal gain. 

How Cybersecurity Pros Can Prevent Black Hat Activity

To discourage black hat hackers from operating, the United States (as well as other countries) have a variety of laws that allow them to punish hackers to the full extent of the law. Fines and jail time can result from breaking laws including The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, The Stored Communications Act, and The Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Since criminals tend to not obey the law, cyber professionals must incorporate prevention techniques and technologies to combat black hat hackers. Here are a few of the strategies they employ.

  1. White Hat Hackers

White hat hackers work to think like black hat hackers to stay a step ahead in securing networks, systems, firewalls, and servers. While they use worms, trojans, and more to find weaknesses in systems and networks, they do so using an ethical code. Their goal is to find these compromised areas and fix them before black hat hackers are able to find them. It is not uncommon for black hat hackers to be recruited by companies for their skills after their criminal punishments.

  1. Blockchain technology

Blockchain is monitored by nodes and miners that are always working to make sure transactions are legal. The technology is also decentralized which makes it more difficult for illegal operators to infiltrate the system because they would need control of over half of the related computers to take over.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

As cyber attack risks increase, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to gather and sort through research, data, blogs, and other pieces of information. This analysis is used to create risk and threat assessments in order to better understand these threats. AI is often credited for reducing the time it takes to locate threats because it can locate and analyze threats quickly.

  1. Behavioral analytics

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) monitors the patterns of users and works to detect any behaviors that deviate from what is considered normal. All users, including managers and employees, are included in the behavior monitoring which includes using statistics, algorithms, and machine learning to find straying users. This method isn’t used as a preventative tool, but allows for quick detection when a hacker breaks through a system.

  1. Network security tools

Network security tools vary and cyber security professionals are responsible for choosing the network security tools that best meet the needs for the security of their company’s system. Some examples of these tools include Jack the Ripper which can detect password strength, Kali Linux which can monitor network security, Wireshark which helps to identify weaknesses, and tools such as Forcepoint even detect and immediately act on threats.

Interested in becoming a cybersecurity professional? One great way to learn the skills needed is to enroll in a cybersecurity bootcamp. Bootcamps are offered in-person, online, and through hybrid versions of the two formats. Below is a list of some of the best cyber security bootcamps so you can choose the format that works best for your schedule and goals.

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