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Penetration Tests and Ethics: White Hat vs. Black Hat Hackers

There are many complex terms and occupations in the hacking community, including several that pertain to enterprise organizations and their cyber security practices. We’re here to demystify some of these nebulous terms to help you gain a deeper understanding of the world of cyber security.

In this blog post, we’ll focus on white hat hacking vs. black hat hacking and why it’s important to understand both as you continue to develop your security landscape.

Black Hat vs. White Hat Hacking

What Is Black Hat Hacking?

Black hat hackers break into systems for personal gain. This can be notoriety, money, or for a specific social cause (also called “hacktivists”).

What Is White Hat Hacking?

White hat hackers—also called “ethical hackers”—differ from black hat hackers in many ways. While black hat hackers are willing to commit criminal activity to gain money from a company or damage its reputation, ethical, white hat hackers don’t wish to see organizations suffer, but rather thrive.

To summarize the key differences between white hat and black hat hackers, white hat hackers:

What Is Gray Hat Hacking?

Just as there are gray areas to ethics, gray hat hackers blur the line between being a white hat hacker and a black hat hacker.

While black hat hackers hack with the intent to benefit themselves, and therefore exploit businesses, gray hat hackers will break into a company’s network or system without consent, but usually with the intent to strike a deal. By gaining access to your data, they may offer to help patch your cyber security vulnerabilities in return for money.

Ethical Considerations of White Hat and Black Hat Hacking

Black Hat Hacking Is Illegal

Several federal, state, and computer criminal statutes allow U.S. and state authorities to prosecute hackers. Fines, incarceration, or both are possible outcomes of being found guilty of certain misdemeanors and felonies.

White hat hackers, on the other hand, first get permission from the system owner to conduct their procedures.

The Intentions Behind White Hat and Black Hat Hacking Are Vastly Different

While a white hat hacker will work with you to help improve your cyber security practices in every way possible, a black hat hacker is purely a threat to your organization because they only seek personal gain.

Understanding Hacking in Cyber Security

Black Hat Hacking Is on the Rise

Hackers with malicious intent are not slowing down.

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, for example, have a year-over-year growth rate of 67%, equating to a 24% increase each quarter that passes.

As a result of this rise, it’s crucial to understand your cyber security landscape and how to fortify it to prevent black hat hackers from breaching your organization or taking it offline.

White Hat Hacking Continues To Help Businesses Thrive

White hat hackers have helped businesses save up to $27 billion.

Their services may cost you money upfront, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of experiencing—and recovering from—a cyber attack. In fact, in the United States in 2023, the average cost of a data breach increased from $9.44 million to $9.48 million.

White Hat vs. Black Hat Hacking for Penetration Testing

You should never consult with a known black hat hacker for any cyber security services—including penetration tests—your organization needs. Conduct your due diligence when researching a cyber security vendor and choose a reliable, credible penetration testing provider that offers many services to improve your security posture.

Get the Cyber Security Assistance You Need From Reliable Professionals

While there are many hackers with different hats to be aware of, we don’t recommend working with anyone who doesn’t have genuine intentions for your organization.

Tec-Refresh provides ethical, managed security services, risk management, and compliance services to help improve the cyber security of our clients. By putting your organization’s goals first, we build around your enterprise to provide tailored solutions that match your exact needs.

Learn more about our managed IT and security services with our free brochure today.

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