What is a Black Hat Hacker? All You Need to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is a Black Hat Hacker? All You Need to Know (2023)<br />

What is a Black Hat Hacker?

The digital age has brought about a new breed of criminals: black hat hackers. These malicious actors wield their technical prowess to wreak havoc on computer systems and networks, often for personal or financial gain.

But what is a black hat hacker, and how do they differ from other types of hackers? Read on to learn about the different types of hackers and how to protect yourself from the cyber threats they pose.


  • Black Hat Hackers are individuals who use their skills to exploit computer systems for personal gain or malicious intent, breaking laws and ethical boundaries.

  • They are known for activities like spreading malware, stealing sensitive data, breaching security systems, and conducting cyberattacks, causing immense harm.

  • Cybersecurity measures are crucial in protecting against Black Hat Hackers, involving good digital habits, secure networks, and updated antivirus software.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Defining Black Hat Hackers

Black hat hackers are the digital world’s bad guys, using their technical abilities to illegally access computer systems and networks for their own gain. These malicious individuals target personal information, such as email accounts, credit card info, and user credentials, as well as companies and organizations to steal business data or take down websites. Financial or political gain may be among their motives. It is also possible that they are merely looking to demonstrate their abilities.

As we explore the world of hacking, it’s essential to understand that not all hackers are the same. The hacker spectrum consists of black, white, and gray hats, each with their unique characteristics and objectives. Let’s dive deeper into these categories in the following sections.

The Hacker Spectrum: Black, White, and Gray

The hacker spectrum is divided into black, white, and gray hats, with black hats being the most malicious and white hats being ethical hackers. Black hat hackers exploit security flaws for their own benefit, while white hat hackers work to identify and fix security flaws before they can be exploited.

Gray hat hackers, on the other hand, operate in a gray area between the two, sometimes switching sides depending on the situation. In the next few subsections, we’ll explore each type in more detail.

Black Hat Hackers

Black hat hackers are driven by personal or financial gain, using their technical knowledge to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks. These criminals have targeted phone companies, big businesses, religious organizations, governments, and even the CIA. While they’re undoubtedly dangerous, some argue that black hat hackers could also be advantageous in specific scenarios, such as cyber warfare or industrial espionage.

The primary objective of black hat hackers is to exploit security vulnerabilities for their own benefit, often causing significant harm to individuals and organizations alike. As we continue to uncover the hacker spectrum, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin: white hat hackers.

White Hat Hackers

In contrast to their black hat counterparts, white hat hackers use their tech know-how to locate and patch up security issues in computer systems and networks. These ethical hackers work within the bounds of legality, helping organizations improve their security and protect their digital assets.

One example of white hat hacking is the use of Host Intrusion Protection Software (HIPS), a more advanced form of host-based security software that evaluates the behavior of an application to determine if it’s malicious. By identifying and fixing security flaws before black hat hackers can exploit them, white hat hackers play a crucial role in keeping organizations safe from cybercriminals.

Gray Hat Hackers

Gray hat hackers do not align with a single ethical standard. They stand between the two extremes of black and white hat hackers. These individuals discover security vulnerabilities and exploit them to point them out to the system owners, but without any malicious intent. Their goal is to improve system and network security, but they often do so without authorization from the system owners.

One famous example of a gray hat hacker is Khalil Shreateh, who hacked Facebook to address a vulnerability that allowed him to post on other users’ pages without their permission.

While gray hat hackers may not have the same malicious intentions as black hat hackers, they still operate in a legally murky area, which can lead to unintended consequences.

Common Tactics Employed by Black Hat Hackers

Black hat hackers utilize a variety of tactics to achieve their nefarious goals. Some common methods include phishing, malware, ransomware, and DDoS attacks. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack where malicious emails or links are sent to people in an attempt to trick them into revealing their personal information.

Malware, on the other hand, is a type of malicious software designed to damage or disable computers, networks, and other systems. Ransomware is another common tactic employed by black hat hackers. This type of malicious software encrypts the victim’s files and demands a ransom for their release.

DDoS attacks involve overwhelming a website or network with traffic, causing it to crash and become inaccessible.

Legal Consequences of Black Hat Hacking

Engaging in black hat hacking can lead to severe legal consequences. Depending on the gravity of the offense, punishments can range from fines to jail time and restitution payments. Criminal conspiracy charges may also apply if two or more people collaborate to commit a felony and then take action to make it happen.

The term “protected computer” covers a wide range of devices, including those used by financial institutions, the US government, and any computers involved in interstate or international communication. The Cybersecurity Enhancement Program. The Act allows law enforcement to access data stored by an internet service provider without a warrant in certain cases.

High-Profile Black Hat Hackers

Throughout history, there have been several high-profile black hat hackers who have made headlines for their illicit activities. Kevin Mitnick, the FBI’s most wanted hacker in the 90s, was notorious for gaining unauthorized access to various networks and stealing passwords and private emails. After being caught and serving time in prison, Mitnick eventually became a security consultant for the FBI and other major companies.

Other infamous black hat hackers include Adrian Lamo, who turned in Chelsea Manning for leaking government documents to WikiLeaks, and Albert Gonzalez, the mastermind behind one of the most notorious cybercrime schemes in U.S. history, resulting in massive data breaches. These high-profile cases serve as a stark reminder of the real-world consequences of black hat hacking.

How to Protect Yourself from Black Hat Hackers

To protect yourself from black hat hackers, it’s essential to limit the amount of personal information you provide online. Regularly checking your online financial accounts can help you spot suspicious transactions, which should be reported to your credit card providers and financial institutions immediately.

Another effective way to safeguard your personal and financial information from hackers is to order free credit reports and freeze your credit. Freezing your credit prevents lenders from accessing your credit, making it nearly impossible for someone to open a fraudulent account or take out a loan in your name.

The Role of White Hat Hackers in Combating Black Hat Threats

White hat hackers play a vital role in the fight against black hat threats. By assisting organizations in locating and resolving security flaws before they can be exploited by black hat hackers, white hat hackers help protect valuable data and systems from cybercriminals.

Their expertise in ethical hacking allows them to come up with effective plans to counteract black hat attacks and keep organizations safe from potential breaches. The importance of white hat hackers in bolstering security and safeguarding precious data cannot be overstated.

The Evolution of Black Hat Hacking

Black hat hacking has evolved significantly over the years, with the methods and techniques used by hackers constantly updating as technology and the internet have become more advanced. The sophistication and complexity of black hat hacking have grown, as hackers have become more skilled in using advanced techniques and tools to gain access to systems and networks.

In recent years, there has been a shift towards more targeted attacks, such as phishing and ransomware, which aim to exploit specific vulnerabilities to access sensitive data or systems. As black hat hacking continues to evolve, it’s crucial for individuals and organizations alike to be vigilant and proactive in protecting themselves from these cyber threats.


In conclusion, understanding the hacker spectrum and the role of black, white, and gray hat hackers is essential in today’s digital age. As black hat hackers continue to evolve, using increasingly sophisticated tactics to exploit vulnerabilities and wreak havoc, it’s up to white hat hackers and our own vigilance to keep our digital lives safe. By understanding the threats we face and taking proactive measures to protect ourselves, we can minimize the risks associated with black hat hacking and ensure a more secure digital landscape for everyone.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What does a black hat hacker do?

A black hat hacker is someone who uses their knowledge of cyber security to breach systems and networks with malicious intent. They may spread malware, steal sensitive information, or hold computers hostage for ransom.

Are black hat hackers illegal?

Yes, black hat hackers are illegal and their activities are often prosecuted under applicable laws. The penalties for conviction on different classes of misdemeanors and felonies can include fines, jail time, or both.

What are the 3 types of hackers?

There are three main types of hackers: black hat hackers, white hat hackers, and gray hat hackers. Black hats use their knowledge of computer systems to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks.

White hats use their skills to test the security of these systems and networks in an effort to improve security, while grey hats lie somewhere between the two. Each type plays an important role in helping to ensure the safety and security of data and systems.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.