The Spectrum of Hacking, Explained

With so much of our personal information readily available online, the word “hacking” can create reasonable fears. Credit cards, social security numbers, email accounts, and even government intelligence have all been susceptible to hacking.

Hacking and hacker are normally used in a negative context, but these terms aren’t necessarily negative in practice. In fact, white-hat hacking is an important process to protect and strengthen security, as opposed to malicious black-hat hacking.

So, what are the main differences between the two? Let’s take a deeper look.

 White-Hat Hacking

 A white-hat hacker is a computer security specialist who hacks into protected systems and networks to test the security’s strength. These types of hackers use their skills to improve security by exposing weaknesses before criminal hackers—or black-hat hackers—can discover and exploit them. White-hat hacking is also known as ethical hacking, because these hackers are specifically hired to perform penetration tests to identify and fix security flaws.

Black-Hat Hacking

On the opposite side of the spectrum is black-hat hacking. This type holds hacking’s traditional negative connotation. A black-hat hacker is a person who attempts to breach computer security to exploit the vulnerabilities for personal financial gain, or for other spiteful reasons. Black-hat hackers are also known as crackers because of their purpose to crack a security system. Unlike white-hat hacking, black-hat hacking is a criminal act.

Black-hat hackers may also notify other hackers or the public of a breach, but not the victim—making the organization vulnerable to further breaches before it can protect its system.

 Gray-Hat Hacking

With every black and white spectrum, there is always a gray area. Gray-hat hackers don’t work for personal gain, but technically commit crimes by compromising computer systems without permission. Unlike black-hat hackers, gray-hat hackers notify the organization after they compromise the system, allowing them to fix the problem before black-hat hackers can breach it. It is important to note that, although gray-hat hacking isn’t used for malicious reasons, the gray-hat hackers still compromise security systems without permission—and, therefore, perform an illegal act.

 How to Protect Yourself

If you’re worried about black-hat hackers breaching your business’ network, there are precautionary measures you can take. Firewalls, content filters, and intrusion prevention systems are three easy ways to strengthen your network. A firewall acts as a barrier to prevent unauthorized access to a network or specific computer. Content filters are like firewalls, but work from the inside out. They block employees from accessing certain websites or entire categories of websites. Content filters are important because many black-hat hackers gain access to networks through employees’ visits to their websites. An IPS will detect intrusions in progress and immediately act to shut down the network’s Internet connection or a targeted server.

In the world of hacking, you can never be too careful, and taking precaution to protect your server can make a huge difference in privacy and safety. See how eMazzanti can protect your network with scalable security solutions. Contact us today.

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