Digital Communication


Digital Communication

Black Hat Hacker: All About Criminal Cyber ​​Hackers


Black Hats are computer hackers who exploit security flaws in systems to their own advantage, often causing significant damage. In doing so, however, their motivations and practices are very different.

What is a Black Hat Hacker?

At first glance, classic westerns and modern computer systems have little in common. But there is nevertheless one aspect where these areas overlap, and it is precisely the headgear found in films dealing with the “Wild West”. In the era of black-and-white television, it was especially important to distinguish characters from one another. The radiant hero saw himself wearing a pristine white cowboy hat for this purpose, while his opponent was dressed in black. The “Black Hat” thus owes its name to this archetype. So you can imagine that Black Hat hackers don’t have good intentions. On the contrary, their actions are more of a criminal nature.

Of course, there are female elements among criminal hackers. For the sake of readability, however, we will content ourselves with using the neutral form of the Anglicism “hacker” in this text.

Black Hat Hackers penetrate computer networks to cause damage. Either they intervene for the purpose of personal enrichment, or they simply want to deactivate the attacked system. In most cases, the operations carried out by Black Hat hackers are punishable and subject to legal action. Black Hats look for vulnerabilities in networks or computers and then exploit them for their own purposes. Often victims only detect these attacks when damage has already been committed. The use of appropriate anti-virus software is also crucial for this reason. Two-factor authentication, regular updates and strong passwords also protect against attacks.

What are the types of Black Hats?

There are different types of Black Hat hackers, and the lines between these categories are often blurred. Distinguishing characteristics often relate to the approach and intent of Black Hats.

In many cases, Black Hat hackers are primarily driven by self-interest. They attack systems and attempt to steal passwords and bank details or extort the owners of the affected computer or network using malware. These Black Hats often operate in groups, take advantage of branching structures, and act as gangs of criminals that primarily operate in the digital space. Some of these hackers also accept orders and comply with suggestions.

Other Black Hats are less motivated by direct (financial) benefit and intend especially cause damage. This desire can be driven by an ideological purpose when, for example, organizations, authorities or certain companies are attacked and it is a question of destroying their infrastructure. A desire for revenge or to show off one’s own power can also play a part in Black Hat hackers. But one can ultimately only speculate on the exact motives at play here.

Third Major Group of Black Hats Launches Cyber ​​Attacks Intent to gather information. This approach may target the address data of individuals, the trade secrets of competing companies or state secrets. Although many Black Hat hackers frown on working with the authorities, governments are also increasingly getting involved in this area. Some bots are also used to execute hacker attacks, cause confusion and overload systems.

How do black hat hackers differ from other hackers?

Black hat hackers more likely reflect the cliché many people have of cyber hackers in general: a shady geek who exploits a system’s weaknesses without worrying about loss. But the moniker “Black Hat” alone suggests that there isn’t just one type of hacker. On the contrary, we distinguish this category of White Hat hackers and Gray Hat hackers.

Black Hats compared to White Hats

White Hat hackers are basically the perfect opposed to the Black Hats, and that is why they too owe their name to the Manichean epics of westerns. At first, White Hats proceed in the same way as Black Hat hackers and uncover vulnerabilities within a system. But unlike their criminal counterparts, they don’t exploit this knowledge for their own benefit, and instead notify affected organizations or businesses of impending danger. They operate either on their own initiative or at the request of network operators. Ethical hacking saves companies a lot of money and protects them against attacks.

The difference between Black Hats and Gray Hats

The Gray Hats are a mixture of White Hats and Black Hats. Gray hackers also often act outside the legal framework, since they also attack and exploit weak points without the operators’ consent or keeping them informed. If the Black Hats profit (financially) from these attacks, the Gray Hats then inform the operators of the incident so that they have the opportunity to plug the leak. Their motivation varies here: one can invoke the aspiration for recognition, the demonstration of one’s own abilities, financial incentives in the form of rewards or the real desire to encourage a safer Internet, for example.

Nevertheless, Gray Hat but also Black Hat hackers remain poorly regarded by most companies. Breaking into third-party systems without consent, they behave illegally and sometimes cause damage. In particular, when they demand a reward for the (unwanted) detection of a vulnerability or its elimination, the limits become blurred and approach the blackmail methods of Black Hat hackers. It is therefore not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. For example, the famous collective Anonymous clearly uses the methods of the Black Hats, but is also celebrated by many as fighters in the service of the noble cause.

Famous Black Hat Hackers

Black Hat hackers have engaged in numerous incidents and attacks over time. Those responsible, however, were not captured or gained much fame. There is still a small gallery of famous former Black Hats.

Kevin Mitnick

The most famous hacker of all time is undoubtedly the American Kevin Mitnick alias Condor. Along with his Roscoe gang, he is believed to have hacked into the United States Department of Defense on numerous occasions, among other feats of arms. He was imprisoned during the 1980s, then again in 1995 and sentenced to prison terms. After his release in 2000, he worked as an author and security consultant.

Albert González

Albert Gonzalez was indicted three times in 2008 and 2009 for data theft and credit card fraud in several million cases and was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison. In the meantime, his role as an informant did not prevent him from continuing his criminal activities. Along with his accomplices, he allegedly stole more than US$250 million from the TJX retail group alone.

jonathan james

Jonathan James, a 15-year-old Black Hat hacker at the time, was also exploiting vulnerabilities in the US Department of Defense system. In doing so, he intercepted numerous confidential documents and found himself in the crosshairs of federal authorities. The North American also managed to break into the systems of the NASA space agency, the BellSouth holding company and a school administration. Arrested and convicted in 2000, he was imprisoned for six months following a violation of probation conditions. He committed suicide on May 18, 2008 while authorities questioned him in connection with the Black Hat attacks on TJX.

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