Hackers – exactly who, how and why?

Alastair Horner

In the simplest terms hacking generally refers to unauthorised intrusion into a computer or a network. The person (or persons) engaged in hacking activities is known as a hacker. This hacker may alter system or security features to accomplish a goal that differs from its original purpose. There is a common misconception that your average hacker is a young person in a hoodie holed up in his parent’s basement.

However, with the ever-changing complexities of the way that people are hacking there are a range of different types of hackers – and very few of them wear hoodies!


1. Novices/Script Kiddies – Have a low skill set and generally use code written by others. Script kiddies rarely perform their own hacks, preferring to utilise easy-to-use software. A Script Kiddie will usually not progress beyond researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information about an individual or organization and performing simple DDoS attacks on websites.

2. White Hat or Ethical Hackers – Use their skills in order to help individuals, businesses and government.  They work against malicious hackers, find vulnerabilities that need to be patched and newly released malware.  They help protect rather than attack computer networks and educate people on securing themselves online.

3. Black Hat Hacker – Generally an immoral hacker looking for financial gain. Black Hats also tend to enjoy the challenge of the hacking process which leads to competition between Black Hats. They may engage in a wide range of hacking activities, including exploiting vulnerabilities, computer intrusion, identity theft, vandalism of systems, leaking of sensitive government/business information or the creation of malware.

4. Hacktivists – Work to rectify their perceived wrongs in the world. This may involve DDoS attacks on the websites of organizations accused of cruelty to animals, terrorism, oppressive government regimes, etc. It can also involve hacking the websites of governments whose policies the hacktivists disagree with. Hacktivists have historically been involved in campaigning against legislation that threatens people’s civil liberties.

5. Grey Hat Hackers don’t usually hack for financial gain, but their intentions can be good or bad. For instance, when a grey hat hacker hacks a website, they might tell the site owner about the vulnerability that allowed the hack to take place. Or, the grey hat might publicise the hack, in the name of hacktivism.

6. Nation-State Hackers – Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) are employed by governments to engage in espionage, social engineering, computer intrusion and/or embedding malware to acquire classified information and gain advantage over another government.

7. A Malicious Insider – May be a disgruntled employee, one hired by a competitor in order to steal trade secrets from the organization or a fired employee who managed to gather sensitive company information before leaving the company.

As there are some ‘good’ hackers, hacking has lost of its bad reputation, even resulting in companies offering online courses and publicized ‘Hackathons’.  Though there is nothing to stop them using this knowledge for more nefarious purposes.  And of course the dark web offers a wealth of off-the-shelf hacking solutions!

But whatever type of hacker they are, you don’t want anyone getting unauthorised access to your data!

There are numerous precautions that you can take in order to protect yourself from hackers. From the simplicity of creating strong/complex passwords right up to changing your infrastructure and DDoS testing. It is vital that companies do all they can to prevent attacks to ensure that all information is protected.

Contact us or call us on 0845 625 9025 to find out how we can help you protect your organization against whatever sort of hacker might have you in their sights.