The Shades of Hackers: Black, White, and Gray Hat Explained

Published Categorized as Guide

Understanding the Hackerscape

You’ve seen the headlines. Data stolen. Computer networks locked. Private information leaked. Whenever hackers are mentioned in the media, it’s almost always in a negative light. While it’s true there are many nefarious hackers out there, these aren’t the only class of hackers around. In fact, hackers can fall into several categories, namely black hat, white hat, and gray hat hackers. These designations were inspired by old wild west movies where the good guys wore whites hats and the baddies black hats. But what exactly are the differences between white, black, and gray hat hackers? Let’s take a look.

The Dark Side: Black Hat Hackers

What is a black hat hacker?

Black hat hackers are the culprits behind those big data breaches hitting the headlines. They’re criminals who break into computer networks with the intention of causing harm. This can be in the form of stealing passwords, credit card info, or other sensitive customer data. They might also hold company systems hostage via ransomware or destroy files. Black hat hackers are often motivated by money, revenge, or just the desire to sow seeds of chaos.

Examples of black hat hackers

  1. Ransomware groups: Operating as organized criminal entities, these groups infect systems with ransomware, demanding payment for unlocking them.
  2. Kevin Mitnick: Once the world’s most wanted cybercriminal, Mitnick stole millions of dollars in corporate secrets, now reformed as a cybersecurity consultant.
  3. Gary McKinnon: Allegedly the mastermind behind the largest military computer hack, hacking 97 U.S. military and NASA systems.

The Heroes: White Hat Hackers

What is a white hat hacker?

Now it’s on to the good guys. White hat hackers—also known as good hackers and ethical hackers—have the opposite intentions of black hat hackers. While black hats are criminals, the bandits of the Wild West that is the internet, white hats work with the sheriffs. They work with companies to identify flaws in their systems and recommend fixes.

Examples of white hat hackers

  1. Charlie Miller: Known for winning a $10,000 prize during the 2008 Pwn2Own computer hacking contest.
  2. Dan Kaminsky: Identified a major DNS flaw that could lead to widespread cache poisoning attacks.

The Gray Area: Gray Hat Hackers

What is a gray hat hacker?

Gray hat hackers fit somewhere in between black hat and white hat hackers. They look for vulnerabilities in a system without the owner’s permission. If they find any flaws, a gray hat will inform the system owner, often requesting payment. However, since the company hacked did not commission them, their actions can be seen as illegal.

Examples of gray hat hackers

  1. “Mr. White Hat” (Poly Network hacker): Stole $600 million from a cryptocurrency platform, claiming it was for fun and to encourage security improvements.
  2. Axel Gembe (Valve hacker): Hacked the video game company Valve, releasing the entire code for an unfinished build of Half-Life 2.

Protecting Yourself from the Shadows

How to protect yourself from hackers

  1. Keep your devices up to date: Update your operating systems and apps for the latest bug patches.
  2. Create stronger passwords: Use long, complex passwords, and consider a password manager like ForestVPN.
  3. Watch out for phishing and other scams: Only click on files and open emails from people and organizations that you know and trust.
  4. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi: Protect yourself with a VPN app like ForestVPN.


  1. Are all hackers criminals?
    • No, hackers can be classified into black hat (criminals), white hat (ethical hackers), and gray hat (somewhere in between).
  2. How do white hat hackers help?
    • White hat hackers work with companies to identify and fix security flaws, protecting users from potential cyber threats.
  3. Is hacking always illegal?
    • While black hat hacking is illegal, gray hat hacking, done without permission, falls into a legal gray area.
  4. Why should I use ForestVPN?
    • ForestVPN provides a secure virtual private network, safeguarding your online presence from potential threats.
  5. How can I protect myself on public Wi-Fi?
    • Use a VPN app like ForestVPN to encrypt your online traffic and protect against cyberattacks.

Hotspot VPN hack

Hotspot VPN hack? The digital realm is full of potential threats, and ensuring your online security is paramount. To protect yourself from potential hotspot VPN hacks, consider using a reliable virtual private network (VPN) like ForestVPN. A VPN encrypts your online traffic, providing a secure tunnel for your data to travel through, safeguarding it from potential cyber threats. Don’t leave your digital presence vulnerable—take the proactive step of securing your connection with ForestVPN.

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