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Decoding Cybersecurity - A Wide Guide to Hacker Profiles

Exploring the Different Types of Hackers and Their Motivations

30 Jun 2020
3-5 min read


In the era of digital connectivity, the term 'hacker' has become a common part of our daily conversations. With the growing dependence on online platforms, the threat of cybercrime is more real than ever. This article aims to simplify the complex world of hacking, breaking down the technical jargon, and providing a detailed guide to understanding different hacker profiles.

Deciphering the Hacker Code

Hackers are often categorized based on their intentions when hacking a system. The terms 'white hat', 'black hat', 'grey hat', 'red hat', and 'script kiddie' are commonly used to describe different types of hackers. These terms have their roots in old Spaghetti Westerns, where the villain wore a black cowboy hat, and the hero wore a white one.

White Hat Hackers

Also known as Ethical Hackers, White Hat hackers use their skills to improve system security. Their primary goal is to identify weaknesses in a computer or network system through penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. Ethical hacking is a legitimate and highly sought-after profession in the IT industry, with many companies hiring these specialists to enhance their system security.

Black Hat Hackers

In contrast, Black Hat hackers, or crackers, use their skills maliciously. They hack systems to gain unauthorized access, disrupt operations, steal sensitive information, or violate user privacy. Black Hat hacking is illegal and poses a significant threat to cybersecurity.

Grey Hat Hackers

Grey Hat hackers fall somewhere in between White Hat and Black Hat hackers. They exploit security weaknesses in computer systems or networks without the owner's permission or knowledge, not for malicious intent, but for personal amusement or to bring the vulnerability to the owner's attention.

Red Hat Hackers

Red Hat hackers are akin to vigilantes of the cyber world. They are typically involved in hacking government agencies, top-secret information hubs, and other sensitive information sources.

Script Kiddies

The term 'Script Kiddie' refers to individuals who use pre-packaged automated tools to break into computer systems. They usually have little understanding of the underlying concepts and are often driven by the thrill of hacking rather than any specific intention.


Adware: Adware is software designed to force specific ads to display on your system.

Attack: An attack is an action that is done on a system to get its access and extract sensitive data.


Backdoor: Also called trap door, is a hidden entry to a computing device, a software or a website/application that bypasses security measures, such as logins and password protections.

Bot: A bot is a program that automates an action so that it can be done repeatedly at a much higher rate for a more sustained period than a human operator could do it.

Botnet: Also known as a zombie army, is a group of computers controlled without their owners’ knowledge. Botnets are used to send spam or make denial of service attacks.

Brute Force: A brute force attack is an automated and the simplest kind of method to gain access to a system or website trying several combinations of usernames and passwords, over and over again, until it gets in.

Buffer Overflow: Buffer Overflow is a flaw that occurs when more data is written to a block of memory, or buffer than the buffer is allocated to hold.


Cipher: A cipher scrambles your message into nonsense by substituting (and adding to) the letters in it. For someone to read it, they’ll either need the key or to be skilled in crypto-analysis to get it.

Clone Phishing: Clone phishing is the modification of an existing, legitimate email with a false link to trick the recipient into providing personal information.

Code: Code is the machine-readable, usually text-based instructions that govern a device or program. Changing the code can change the behavior of the device or program.

Compiler: A compiler is a program that translates high-level language (source code in a programming language) into executable machine language. Compilers are sometimes rewritten to create a back door without changing a program’s source code.

Cookie: Cookies are text files sent from your Web browser to a server, usually to customize information from a website.

Cracker: A cracker is one who modifies the software to access the features which require normally a subscription or/and a license.

Cross-Site Scripting: Also called XSS is a type of computer security vulnerability typically found in web applications. XSS enables attackers to inject client-side script into web pages viewed by other users.


DoS Attack: A denial of service (DoS) attack is a malicious attempt to make a server or a network resource unavailable to users, usually by temporarily interrupting or suspending the services of a host connected to the Internet.

DDoS: Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a subclass of denial of service (DoS) attacks. A DDoS attack involves multiple connected online devices, collectively known as a botnet, which are used to overwhelm a target website with fake traffic.

Doxing: Discovering and publishing the identity of an otherwise anonymous Internet user by tracing their online publically available accounts, metadata, and documents like email accounts, as well as by hacking, stalking, and harassing.


Exploit Kit: An exploit kit is a software system designed to run on web servers, with the purpose of identifying software vulnerabilities in client machines communicating with it and exploiting discovered vulnerabilities to upload and execute malicious code on the client.

Exploit: Exploit is a piece of software, a chunk of data, or a sequence of commands that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability to compromise the security of a computer or network system.


Firewall: A firewall is a filter designed to keep unwanted intruders outside a computer system or network while allowing safe communication between systems and users on the inside of the firewall.


Hacking: Hacking is the creative manipulation of code, distinguished, albeit amorphously, from programming by focusing on the manipulation of already written code in the devices or software for which that code was already written. Metaphorically it extends to social engineering in its manipulation of social code to effect change. Many prefer to use the term cracking to describe hacking into a machine or program without permission. Hackers are sometimes divided into the white hat, black hat, and gray hat hackers.

Hacktivist: A hacker whose goals are social or political. Examples range from reporting online anonymously from a country that attacks free speech to launching a DDoS campaign against a company whose CEO has issued objectionable statements. Not to be confused with slacktivism, which refers to push-button activism in which a supporter of a social or political campaign’s goals does nothing but register their support online, for instance by “liking” a Facebook page.

Hash: A hash is a number generated by an algorithm from a string of characters in a message or other string. In a communications system using hashes, the sender of a message or file can generate a hash, encrypt the hash, and send it with the message. On decryption, the recipient generates another hash. If the included and the generated hash are the same, the message or file has almost certainly not been tampered with.


IP: Internet protocol address. It’s the distinctive numeral fingerprint that each device carries that’s connected to a network using Internet Protocol. If you have a device’s IP you can often identify the person using it, track its activity, and discover its location. These addresses are apportioned by the regional Internet registries of the IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). Crackers can use knowledge of your IP address to your computer via one of its ports, the points that regulate information traffic flow.

IRC: Internet relay chat is a protocol used by both groups and for one-on-one conversations. Often utilized by hackers to communicate or share files. Because they are usually unencrypted, hackers sometimes use packet sniffers to steal personal information from them.


Keyloggers: Keystroke logging using "Keyloggers" is the process of tracking the keys which are pressed on a computer (and which touchscreen points are used). It is simply the map of a computer/human interface. It is used by gray and black hat hackers to record login IDs and passwords. Keyloggers are usually secreted onto a device using a Trojan delivered by a phishing email.


Logic Bomb: A virus secreted into a system that triggers a malicious action when certain conditions are met. The most common version is the time bomb.


Man in the Middle: Also called "MITM", refer to someone who secretly hacks their way into communications between people or computers. The man in the middle can extract data from the traffic—or even insert their own data, so their targets hear what they want them to hear.

Malware: Malware is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs.

Master: A master program is a program a black hat hacker uses to remotely transmit commands to infected zombie drones, normally to carry out Denial of Service attacks or spam attacks.


Payload: In the world of malware, the term payload is used to describe what a virus, worm or Trojan is designed to do on a victim’s computer. For example, a payload of malicious programs includes damage to data, theft of confidential information and damage to computer-based systems or processes.

Packet Sniffer: Sniffers are programs designed to detect and capture certain types of data. Packet sniffers are designed to detect packets traveling online. Packets are packages of information traveling on the Internet that contains the destination address in addition to content. A packet can be used to capture login information and passwords for a device or computer network.

Phishing: Tricking someone into giving you their personal information, including login information and passwords, credit card numbers, and so on by imitating legitimate companies, organizations, or people online. Phishing’s often done via fake emails or links to fraudulent websites.

Phreaker: Phreakers are considered the original computer hackers and they are those who break into the telephone network illegally, typically to make free long-distance phone calls or to tap phone lines.


Reverse Engineering: Also called back engineering, is the process by which a device is deconstructed to reveal its designs, architecture, or to extract knowledge and sensitive data.

Rootkit: Rootkit is a stealthy type of software, typically malicious, designed to hide the existence of certain processes or programs from normal methods of detection and enable continued privileged access to a computer.


Spear-phishing: A more focused type of phishing, targeting a smaller group of targets, from a department within a company or organization down to an individual.

Shrink Wrap code: A Shrink Wrap code attack is an act of exploiting holes in unpatched or poorly configured software.

Social engineering: Social engineering implies deceiving someone with the purpose of acquiring sensitive and personal information, like credit card details or user names and passwords.

Spam: A Spam is simply an unsolicited email, also known as junk email, sent to a large number of recipients without their consent.

Spoofing: Spoofing is a technique used to gain unauthorized access to computers, whereby the intruder sends messages to a computer with an IP address indicating that the message is coming from a trusted host.

Spyware: Spyware is software that aims to gather information about a person or organization without their knowledge and that may send such information to another entity without the consumer's consent, or that asserts control over a computer without the consumer's knowledge.

SQL Injection: SQL injection is an SQL code injection technique, used to attack data-driven applications, in which malicious SQL statements are inserted into an entry field for execution.


Threat: A threat is a possible danger that can exploit an existing bug or vulnerability to compromise the security of a computer or network system.

Trojan: A Trojan, or Trojan Horse, is a malicious program disguised to look like a valid program, making it difficult to distinguish from programs that are supposed to be there designed with an intention to destroy files, alter information, steal passwords or other information.


Virus: A virus is a malicious program or a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.

Vulnerability: A vulnerability is a weakness that allows a hacker to compromise the security of a computer or network system.


Worms: A worm is a self-replicating virus that does not alter files but resides in active memory and duplicates itself.


Zero-Day: A zero-day attack is a previously unknown vulnerability in a system. A zero-day attack is the first such use of the exploit by a cracker.

Zombie Drone: A Zombie Drone is defined as a hi-jacked computer that is being used anonymously as a soldier or 'drone' for malicious activity, for example, distributing unwanted spam e-mails.


Understanding the different types of hackers and their intentions is crucial in today’s digital age. While installing an antivirus is a good first step, it is equally important to stay informed about the various threats and vulnerabilities that exist in the cyber world. By doing so, we can better protect ourselves and navigate the online world safely and securely.

Leo G.
Created by
Leo G.

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