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What is a Black Hat Hacker?
Black hat hackers are computer hackers who engage in illegal and unethical activities, such as breaking into computer systems, stealing personal information, disrupting computer networks, or engaging in other forms of cybercrime.
Black hat hackers use their skills to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks for personal gain or to cause harm. They often use techniques such as phishing, malware, and social engineering to gain access to sensitive information or to take control of computers or networks.
The term “black hat” is derived from the convention of using the color black to symbolize evil or wrongdoing, in contrast to “white hat” hackers, who use their skills for ethical hacking and cybersecurity purposes.
The Evolution of Black Hat Hacking
Black hat hacking has evolved from a small-scale activity carried out by individuals to a large-scale, organized criminal enterprise. As technology continues to advance, we can expect black hat hacking to become even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. Black hat hacking has come a long way since the early days of hacking in the 1960s and 1970s. Here’s a brief look at its evolution over the years:
1. Phone Phreaking
The first wave of hacking began in the 1960s with phone phreaking, which involved using technical knowledge to manipulate the telephone network to make free long-distance calls.
2. Personal Computers
In the 1980s, personal computers became more widely available, and hackers started to focus on breaking into computer systems.
The 1990s saw the rise of malware, which is software designed to infiltrate and damage computer systems. This included viruses, worms, and Trojan horses.
By the early 2000s, hacking had become more organized, and black hat hackers began to engage in cybercrime, including stealing financial information and launching large-scale cyberattacks.
5. Advanced Persistent Threats
In recent years, black hat hackers have become even more sophisticated, using advanced persistent threats (APTs) to gain long-term access to systems and networks. APTs involve using multiple techniques to bypass security measures, such as spear-phishing, social engineering, and zero-day exploits.
Black Hat Hackers vs White Hat Hackers
Black hat and white hat hackers are two sides of the same coin when it comes to hacking, but they differ greatly in terms of their motivations, methods, and ethical considerations. Here are the main differences between black hat and white hat hackers:
- Motivations: Black hat hackers are motivated by personal gain, whether it be a financial gain or causing disruption and harm to others. White hat hackers, on the other hand, are motivated by a desire to improve cybersecurity and protect against cyberattacks.
- Methods: Black hat hackers use illegal and unethical methods to gain unauthorized access to computer systems, networks, and data. They use techniques such as social engineering, malware, and hacking tools to infiltrate systems. White hat hackers, on the other hand, use legal and ethical methods to identify and fix vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks. They use tools such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to assess the security of systems and networks.
- Ethics: Black hat hacking is illegal and unethical, and those who engage in it can face severe legal consequences if caught. White hat hacking, on the other hand, is legal and ethical as long as it is done with the permission of the system or network owner. White hat hackers follow strict ethical guidelines, such as not stealing data, not causing damage to systems, and disclosing vulnerabilities only to authorized parties.
Cybersecurity Threats Posed by Black Hat Hackers
Black hat hackers are individuals who engage in unauthorized activities with the intention of causing harm, stealing sensitive information, or disrupting computer systems for their personal gain. These individuals use their skills and knowledge to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, and applications for malicious purposes. Here are some of the cybersecurity threats posed by black hat hackers:
Black hat hackers often create and distribute malware, such as viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, to infect computers and networks. Once installed, malware can steal sensitive information, damage files, and even render the system unusable.
Black hat hackers may launch a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack to overwhelm a website or network with traffic, causing it to crash or become unavailable. This can result in significant financial losses for businesses and organizations.
Black hat hackers use phishing techniques to trick individuals into revealing their sensitive information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers. They may send fake emails or create fake websites that look like legitimate ones, to lure unsuspecting victims into providing their information.
Black hat hackers use social engineering tactics to manipulate people into divulging their confidential information. They may impersonate a trustworthy person or create a sense of urgency to trick individuals into giving up their information.
Black hat hackers may use ransomware to encrypt files on a victim’s computer and demand payment in exchange for the decryption key. This can be very damaging for businesses and individuals who rely on their data for daily operations.
Black hat hackers can also be insiders, such as employees or contractors, who use their authorized access to steal or leak confidential information or compromise systems.
10 Black Hat Hackers and Their Notorious Acts
1. Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon is a British hacker who was accused of hacking into several US government computer systems, including those of the Department of Defense and NASA, between 2001 and 2002. McKinnon was searching for evidence of the existence of UFOs and government cover-ups related to them.
McKinnon, who went by the online handle “Solo,” used relatively unsophisticated methods to gain access to the computer systems, such as exploiting default passwords and vulnerabilities in unpatched software. Despite this, he was able to access sensitive data and cause significant damage, including shutting down critical systems and deleting files.
Gary McKinnon reportedly orchestrated USA’s biggest military computer hacking. He was a Scottish systems administrator. Authorities accused him of copying data, account files, and passwords into his own computer. A report claimed that the US government spent around $70, 000 for tracking and rectifying the problems caused by the real-time hacking attacks on their security sites.
After an investigation by US authorities, McKinnon was arrested in 2002 and faced extradition to the US to stand trial. He fought the extradition for several years, claiming that he was looking for evidence of a government conspiracy and that he would face mistreatment and a long prison sentence if extradited.
In 2012, the UK government blocked McKinnon’s extradition to the US, citing concerns over his mental health and the risk of suicide. McKinnon was subsequently not prosecuted in the UK, and his case has been a subject of controversy and debate around issues such as extradition, national security, and the rights of hackers.
2. Robert Tappan Morris
Robert Tappan Morris, an MIT professor, and an American computer scientist was reportedly the person who coded the first computer worm on the Internet called the Morris Worm in 1988. Robert was the first American who was booked under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for hacking websites.
Robert Tappan Morris is an American computer scientist who is best known for creating the first worm to spread widely across the internet. Morris was born in 1965 and grew up in a family of computer scientists.
In 1988, Morris was a graduate student at Cornell University when he released the Morris Worm, which was designed to exploit vulnerabilities in UNIX systems and spread itself across the internet. Morris intended the worm to be a harmless experiment to measure the size of the internet, but a programming error caused the worm to replicate out of control, slowing down or crashing thousands of computers and causing an estimated $100 million in damages.
Morris was quickly identified as the creator of the worm and became the first person to be prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He was sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a fine of $10,000. Morris later became a professor at MIT and went on to found several successful technology companies.
3. Kevin David Mitnick
In the list of dreaded and anonymous hackers, the next name is Kevin David Mitnick. Kevin is a renowned computer security consultant, author, and hacker. At the age of 12, Kevin hacked into the punchcard system used in the Los Angeles bus system by using social engineering. Throughout his career, he was booked several times for being a black hat hacker for various computer-related crimes.
Kevin David Mitnick is an American computer security consultant and former hacker who gained notoriety in the 1990s for a series of high-profile computer crimes. Mitnick began his hacking career as a teenager in the 1970s and continued to engage in illegal hacking activities throughout the 1980s and 1990s, gaining unauthorized access to computer networks and stealing confidential information.
He was arrested several times for his activities, including a 1995 arrest that led to a high-profile manhunt and charges that he had hacked into the computer systems of several major corporations. Mitnick was eventually caught and sentenced to five years in prison, including eight months in solitary confinement. After his release from prison in 2000, he became a computer security consultant and has since written several books on computer security and hacking.
4. Kevin Poulson
Kevin Lee Poulsen works at Wired news as a senior editor and was a former black hat cracker. He came into the limelight when he was found involved in hacking websites and all the telephone lines for Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM to become the 102nd caller and win the prize of a Porsche 944 S2.
Kevin Poulson is an American computer hacker who gained notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s for his hacking activities.
Poulson began his hacking career in the early 1980s, gaining unauthorized access to computer systems and telephone networks. He gained notoriety for a series of hacks in the late 1980s, including gaining access to the telephone lines of a Los Angeles radio station to ensure he would be the winning caller in a competition. He was eventually arrested and charged with several counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, and computer hacking.
After serving five years in prison, Poulson became a journalist and is now a senior editor at The Daily Beast. He has written extensively about computer security and cybercrime and has won several awards for his investigative journalism.
5. Jonathan James
Jonathan Joseph James was an American security hacker. He was America’s first juvenile who was convicted of cybercrime for hacking systems. James began his hacking career as a teenager in the late 1990s, gaining unauthorized access to computer systems and stealing confidential information.
He gained notoriety in 2000 when he hacked into the computer systems of the United States Department of Defense, stealing software that controlled the International Space Station. He was arrested and charged with several counts of computer hacking and was sentenced to six months of house arrest and probation.
In 2007, James was again arrested and charged with several counts of computer hacking. He was accused of hacking into the computer systems of several companies, including a Florida-based defense contractor. Facing the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, James committed suicide in 2008.
6. Adrian Lamo
Adrian Lamo was an ill-famed hacker online and a threat analyst. He came on the radar of security agencies when he attempted to hack several high-profile computer networks, including those of The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
Lamo began his hacking career in the late 1990s, gaining unauthorized access to computer systems and stealing confidential information. He gained notoriety in 2002 when he hacked into the computer systems of several high-profile companies, including The New York Times, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. Lamo was eventually caught and pleaded guilty to several counts of computer hacking.
After serving time in prison, Lamo became a journalist and wrote extensively about computer security and cybercrime. He was known for his reporting on controversial topics, including his reporting on Chelsea Manning, a former US Army soldier who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks. Lamo’s reporting on Manning was controversial and led to him being criticized by both supporters and critics of Manning’s actions.
7. Vladimir Levin
Vladimir Levin is a businessman and one of the best hackers in the world. His hacking skills came wide open when he was accused of hacking websites and intruding into Citibank’s computer system. He made a failed attempt to fraudulently transfer $10.7 million via Citibank’s computers. Currently, he is running his own business in Lithuania.
Levin, who was living in St. Petersburg at the time, was part of a group of hackers who gained unauthorized access to the computer systems of several large banks, including Citibank, in 1994. The group used a combination of social engineering and technical hacking techniques to steal the account information of thousands of customers, ultimately attempting to transfer $10 million from Citibank accounts to accounts in Israel, Finland, and the United States.
Levin was arrested in London in 1995 and extradited to the United States, where he was charged with several counts of computer fraud and wire fraud. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, as well as ordered to pay $240,015 in restitution.
Levin’s hacking activities were notable for their scale and the sophistication of the techniques used. The case highlighted the need for stronger security measures in the financial industry and the growing threat of cybercrime in the global economy.
8. Raphael Gray
Gray first gained attention in 1999, when he was arrested for hacking into the website of the Port of Houston and causing damage to the site. He was sentenced to six months in prison for the crime.
In 2001, Gray made headlines again when he was arrested for hacking into the computer systems of several large companies, including Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Siemens. Gray and his accomplices stole confidential information from the companies and attempted to blackmail them for money. Gray was ultimately sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the scheme.
After serving his prison sentence, Gray became a consultant and advocate for ethical hacking and cybersecurity. He has spoken publicly about his experiences as a hacker and the importance of strong cybersecurity measures to protect individuals and companies from cybercrime.
9. Deceptive Duo
The “Deceptive Duo” is a nickname given to two computer hackers, Kevin Poulsen and Ronald Austin, who gained notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s for their hacking activities.
Poulsen first gained attention in 1983 when he hacked into the phone system of his college campus to win a radio station contest. He continued his hacking activities and in 1988, he and Austin hacked into the computer system of a Los Angeles radio station to rig a call-in contest, with Poulsen winning a Porsche as the prize. The incident led to Poulsen becoming one of the FBI’s most wanted computer criminals.
Poulsen was eventually caught and served a five-year prison sentence. After his release, he became a journalist and cybersecurity expert and has written extensively about hacking and cybercrime.
Austin, on the other hand, was never caught and his whereabouts are unknown. He is believed to have gone underground and may still be involved in hacking activities.
10. Michael Calce
Michael Calce, also known by his online handle “Mafiaboy,” is a Canadian hacker who gained notoriety in the early 2000s for a series of high-profile cyberattacks.
In February 2000, Calce launched a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several large websites, including Yahoo!, Amazon, and CNN. The attacks caused significant disruption to the sites, with some being knocked offline for hours or even days.
Calce was eventually caught and pleaded guilty to 56 charges related to the attacks. He was sentenced to eight months in a youth detention center, given a one-year probation, and ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution.