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Emerging Threats

15 types of hackers + hacking protection tips for 2022

May 2, 2022

From smart homes to NFTs, cryptocurrency and everything in between, the world we live in today wouldn’t be the same without our connection to the internet. However, this digital age also has brought forth different types of hackers looking to rain on our Cyber Safety parades.  

And even as they’ve spent years trying to perfect their hacking methods, we’ve had just as much time learning how to adapt and protect ourselves. In this guide, you’ll learn about the types of hackers you should be aware of and gain insight into their motivations and goals. We’ve even included hacking protection tips that can help keep your devices, privacy, and identity safe. 

So, without further ado, these are the types of hackers you must know in 2022: 

Black hat hackers

An illustration accompanies a black hat hacker definition, explaining why they are one of the types of hackers to look out for.


Also known as criminal hackers, you could view a black hat hacker as your stereotypical cybercriminal. They work tirelessly to break into personal devices and networks in search of sensitive data they can steal and use to make a profit. These cyberthieves are experts at using devious cyberattacks, such as ransomware, spyware, and more, to get their hands on the information they’re after. 

You might even recall hearing about the NBA’s Houston Rockets falling victim to a cyberattack[CS5]  in early 2021. Black hat hackers were able to use ransomware to compromise over 500 GB worth of contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and sensitive financial documents. Black hat hackers used blackmail to threaten the  release of these documents.

Hacker motivation + goal: Steal personal information to use and/or sell to make a profit 

Potential targets: Everyday people and businesses

White hat hackers

An illustration accompanies a white hat hacker definition, explaining why they are one of the types of hackers to look out for.


White hat hackers have the same skills as black hat hackers, but their main difference is their intentions hacker’s intentions. White hat hackers break into systems to spot security flaws to help governments, businesses, and  everyday citizens avoid cyberattacks. 

For example, a business may be experiencing frustrating network issues, such as system crashes or reduced speed.  Instead of upgrading the entire network, companies may hire a white hat hacker to spot potential security flaws  that could allow hackers to cause these issues. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Spot security flaws that ill-intentioned hackers could use to their advantage  

Potential targets: Black hat hackers

Red hat hackers

Red hat hackers are like white hat hackers. But instead of everyday businesses or governments hiring these  hackers to spot and stop black hat hackers, they take it upon themselves to get the job done. Often dubbed the “Robin Hoods of hacking,” these dark web wizards take back what was stolen to provide for those in need. 

In recent events, a red hat hacker was able to steal $50 million from a liquidity pool established by a group of cryptocurrency investors. This was in an effort to provide support to charities in need of financial assistance. The  hacker did leave a note saying they would return funds to anyone who had less than $100,000 to their name. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Work effortlessly to stop black hat hacker cyberattacks

Potential targets: Black hat hackers

Gray hat hackers

Gray hackers only think of hacking as a hobby, known by many as “just for fun” hackers. They get enjoyment from  finding gaps in security networks and might even let the network know they found these gaps. Nonetheless, some still find this type of hacker frustrating, because they hack private networks without permission.

Reports from 2018 tell a story of a Russian-speaking gray hat hacker that broke into more than 100,000 private routers. Though many believed they were up to no good, they found that the hacker was fixing security issues that would protect them from black hat hackers, cryptojackers, and other types of hackers and cyberthreats. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Hack private networks to spot security flaws and/or protect against other cyberthreats  

Potential victims: Everyday people and businesses

Green hat hackers

Green hat hackers are hackers-in-training. Though not as experienced with online scamming as black hat hackers,  green hat hackers commit themselves to advancing their skills to one day fill their shoes. Once they find a hacker  they can learn from, green hat hackers will spend the time it takes to become a full-fledged hacker. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Find a hacker they can learn from to one day become a black hat hacker

Potential victims: Everyday users and businesses

Blue hat hackers

Blue hat hackers closely resemble white hat hackers, but instead of breaking into systems or software that a business is already using, a business will give the blue hacker access beforehand to test it for flaws. That way, the organization can lower the potential risk before making the decision to update systems.

Still confused? Let’s say there's a new file-sharing system a company wants to implement. The last thing they want is for hackers to be able to easily break in and compromise their confidential data. So, they'll contract a hacker to test the system before making a final decision. If it proves to be sufficiently protected, the software is a go.  

Hacker motivation + goal: Check software for security flaws before businesses make a commitment 

Potential victims: Black hat hackers

Script kiddies

An illustration accompanies a script kiddie definition, explaining why they are one of the types of hackers to look out for.

 

Script kiddies are like green hat hackers—just lacking the same drive. They don’t possess the same skills as black hat hackers either, so they’ll copy existing malware more experienced hackers have already made instead of learning how to create their own.  

A famous incident occurred in Ireland in 2015 when police arrested a 15-year-old for accessing a company’s private network without permission. Officials believed the adolescent violated the U.K.’s Computer Misuse Act by holding private documents for ransom and using other types of malware to exploit sensitive documents.  

Hacker motivation + goal: Use existing malware to break into personal devices and make a profit off stolen information  

Potential victims: Everyday users and businesses 

Elite hackers 

Elite hackers are the champions of modern-day hacking. Their years of experience label them as the most skilled  in their field as they can choose between whether they wear black or white hacker hats every day. And because  they can dabble back and forth so easily, they’re the first ones to identify and/or create the newest cyberattack  methods that threaten your cybersecurity.  

A noteworthy example would be when elite hackers tried to hack into the World Health Organization (WHO) to  gather information on the coronavirus in 2020. Their attempts failed, but the cyberattack displayed the true danger of phishing emails, as this was the method they used to try and steal passwords and other login credentials. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Steal sensitive information and compromise complex networks to make a profit or right  any corporate wrongs  

Potential victims: Everyday users and businesses 

Gaming hackers

An illustration accompanies a gaming hacker definition, explaining why they are one of the types of hackers to look out for.


Gaming hackers target any video game enthusiast in their line of sight. They’re known for using the latest  video game trends to manipulate online players into compromising login credentials, payment information, and other personal details attached to their accounts. 

One of the most notable video game hacks occurred in 2021 when Electronic Arts reported falling victim to a  cyberattack compromising more than 780 GB of gaming source code. Luckily, though, they kept the private  information of online players protected.  

Hacker motivation + goal: Trick gamers into revealing sensitive information to make a profit off the stolen data 

Potential victims: Online gamers

Botnet hackers

Botnet hackers take full advantage of their name and use botnets to carry out their cyberattacks. These are  precoded minions designed by hackers to carry out malicious tasks that range from stealing sensitive files to  taking complete control over your computer. 

People witnessed the true danger presented by botnet attacks when Cloudflare found they were the target of a  DDOS attack that used botnets to spread a virus throughout their private network. According to the company, hackers used around 20,000 botnets to overwhelm their systems with more than 330 million  attack requests.

Hacker motivation + goal: Infect devices with botnets to steal and/or compromise sensitive information to use  and/or sell on the dark web

Potential victims: Everyday users and businesses

Cryptojackers

Cryptojackers take advantage of the newness of the cryptocurrency market to carry out cryptocurrency scams. These are illegal requests for cryptocurrency payments in exchange for fake goods, services, or investments.   

An extreme example would be the Onecoin ponzi scheme, which resulted in more than $1 billion in stolen funds from unsuspecting investors. These cryptojackers used their cunning personalities to convince people to invest in cryptocurrency that never actually existed. They then tried to take the money to do as they pleased. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Steal from cryptocurrency owners and/or compromise digital wallet credentials 

Potential victims: Cryptocurrency enthusiasts 

Whistleblowers

An illustration accompanies a whistleblower definition, explaining why they are one of the types of hackers to look out for.

 

Whistleblowers bring light to corporate criminal activity, especially for the companies they work for. These hackers may not have a ton of experience, but they use what they do know to expose white-collar crime that has a direct  impact on innocents.  

One of the most famous whistleblower cases occurred when two employees worked with their government to  expose Glaxo, a pharmaceutical company that took part in fraudulent schemes to push drugs for unapproved uses. Their settlement is one of the largest to date, with the two whistleblowers splitting nearly $3 billion.   

Hacker motivation + goal: Expose or exploit confidential data tied to a corporate crime  

Potential victims: Untrustworthy businesses or individuals 

State- or nation-sponsored hackers 

State- or nation-sponsored hackers are the James Bonds of the hacking community. Government agencies hire  these individuals to gain confidential data on other foreign nations to help them manage potential and existing  threats. 

Cozy Bear is a nation-sponsored hacking group known by many for accusations of meddling in America's 2016 presidential election. In the past, the group has been known to target companies vital to the function of society, such as energy companies, governments, and high-profile entities.  

Hacker motivation + goal: Hack into private international networks under the order of government organizations   

Potential victims: International government agencies   

Cyberterrorists  

Cyberterrorists are politically motivated cybercriminals. They use their hacking expertise to bring attention to their cause by disrupting information systems. These disruptions could then threaten the physical safety of people  and even lead to the loss of life. 

A real-life example of this occurred in 2010 when human rights activists in China and Tibet had their email accounts hacked. Those in opposition to their causes did whatever they could to put a wrench in their plans.  But if one thing holds true in history—good will always prevail. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Use malicious cyberattacks to bring attention to a political cause  

Potential victims: Everyday users and entire nations 

Malicious insiders 

Malicious insiders aren't concerned with honesty and justice like whistleblowers. They intentionally break into their own company networks to exploit confidential data that could put the company and its customers at risk, but they’re not doing this to benefit the less fortunate. The information they expose could just put a pretty penny in  their pocket if they find the right interested party.  

This might occur when an employee receives a tempting offer to steal private corporate files in exchange for small  or large payments. The second the employee accesses the network with the intention of siphoning private data,  they become a malicious insider. 

Hacker motivation + goal: Expose and/or exploit sensitive company data to make a personal profit  

Potential victims: Businesses 

Hacking protection tips 

10 illustrations accompany tips for avoiding different types of hackers online.


We’ve learned that not all hackers are working against us. But for the ones that are, you might make use of these  hacking protection tips.  

Keep personal information safe 

Black hat hackers, elite hackers, and script kiddies are just some of the different types of hackers that go after your  personal information for their malicious plans. Make it harder for them to get it by never including personal identifiable information, such as addresses or phone numbers, on online profiles. If you must send  sensitive information via emails or in another online correspondence, make sure you know who has permission to  see such details. 

Avoid public Wi-Fi 

Green hat hackers use unprotected public Wi-Fi networks to try and infect devices with different types of malware. If you do find yourself out and about, try to only use secure internet connections that are harder for hackers to  breach. Look for “https” in the URL, as well as security badges. These are great indicators that the website you’re  using is secure and trustworthy. 

Consider using a VPN 

Consider using a VPN to keep your online activity encrypted. Without being able to track your IP address and  browsing history, hackers will find it harder to use things like adware and spyware against you.  

Use secure passwords  

Passwords are your first line of defense against cyberattacks like password spraying and credential stuffing often  carried out by black hat, green hat, and gaming hackers. Because of this, try to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords. You could even look into password managers that will organize and create secure passwords for you.  

Be wary of suspicious links and attachments  

Phishing emails embedded with infected links and attachments are common amongst all hackers with  malicious intentions. Pay attention to slight URL differences in frequently visited websites and/or downloadable  files from unknown senders.

Practice mobile device security  

Your cybersecurity encompasses both your personal computers and mobile devices. Avoid compromising private  contact information, text messages, and photos stored on your cell phones and tablets by:        

  • Setting security PINS
  • Updating operating systems
  • Downloading apps from official app stores  

Enable two-factor authentication 

Two-factor authentication, also known as multifactor authentication, adds an extra layer of security to your login  process. Biometric technology secures your accounts with fingerprint and facial recognition technology to  verify your identity and stop hackers in their tracks.   

Remember to install security updates 

Hackers work effortlessly to spot security flaws and zero-day exploits that they can use as their gateways into your systems. To avoid this, it’s important to ensure you're keeping up with updates on your device’s operating  systems. This can help lessen the likelihood of them using zero-day exploits to catch you off guard. 

Download antivirus software  

You could think of antivirus software as your very own guard dog protecting you from the different types of hackers who are after your devices and data. With the 24/7 protection it provides, hackers must try harder to get their  hands on your information.  

Although there are many different types of hackers and emerging threats you have to look out for, now you know about them and how you can protect yourself. So, go forth with confidence that you’ve got what it takes to keep  yourself and your devices cybersecure.

An infographic overviews the types of hackers threatening the online users’ cybersecurity.

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