Different types of threats call for different kinds of experts. In the cybersecurity space, hackers also have tons of variations. Some like to experiment with security, some works to protect, a considerable percentage try to break every rule in the ethical book and hack continuously.
Suppose we recall typical movie scenes, a middle-aged or young guy with a hoodie in a semi-dark room. The only other visible thing is the emitting light of his monitor screen and the tapping sound of a mechanical keyboard—scrolling codes on the screen and voila, another successful hack.
A real-life scenario is not the same as a lot more goes behind the process, which can be irritating and tedious. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting for a hobbyist. A gray hat hacker is an information security hobbyist who hacks for the thrills without the intent of gaining an additional advantage.
Our Cybersecurity Landscape
The cybersecurity world is constantly evolving, and there is no promise that today’s defense will work tomorrow. In that sense, we will continually grow our defensive knowledge. But no one does it better than the hackers whose pseudonym is only known when they announce it.
We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”Albert Eisenstein
Cybersecurity challenges are among the highest priorities in our financial, healthcare, autonomous, electronics, family, and many uncountable sectors. It calls for the regular practice among cybersecurity essentials and to perform offensive actions to build efficient defensive reflexes.
The ‘Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, 2006’ confirmed a 350 percent increase in profit-based targets in the first half of 2006. Now assume how much we as people upgraded ourselves from 2006’s economy.
We have more people in tech than ever, and it calls for different types of personalities experimenting through every tricky stuff at our disposal.
2006 was also known as ‘Year of the Rootkit,’ because you guessed it, rootkits were very popular then. Every minute supply chain management was losing $11,000, and e-commerce was losing $10,000, customer service, ATMs, Messaging, and infrastructure was losing between $3,700 to $700.
And the problem increased tenfold over the years. As we highlighted data from a decade, it doesn’t necessarily mean our information is backdated, but it helps in comparison with before and now.
Nature of Gray Hat Hackers
There are a lot of variants when it comes to hacker types according to their ethics and capability of work. At Hackingloops, we previously covered the essentials of Red Hat Hacker, so this time we will not emphasize all the variants and mainly concentrate on Gray Hat Hackers.
Gray hat hacker (or grey hat hacker) has ethics regarding penetration testing. Gray hat hackers may violate standards but will not have the intent of black hat hackers.
Black hat hackers are pretty dangerous as they don’t care for the law and do whatever serves personal gain. But grey hat will leave out the intent to gain an additional advantage and does things of their free will. They serve the common good for cybersecurity and represent the middle ground of black hat and white hat hackers.
It doesn’t necessarily mean gray hat hackers are charmed like white hats because they may publish vulnerability in online forums and attract an organization’s attention.
The gray hat hackers often share ethical cybersecurity knowledge with general people and expose system vulnerability. Companies hold out on giving information to customers instantly as it may cause panic or the fear of losing trust/popularity.
What is Gray Hat Hacker?
Today, the legal system and information security stay in a bind, and the gray hat hackers remain in between. Being one of three primary hacker types, the individual or team of hackers penetrates a website or services without the motive to leverage benefits.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) points out federal laws compromise computer network security. The gray hat hackers follow the line of ethics and law in preserving a secured environment without constant payroll.
Exposing security risks and challenges is crucial for companies to get the ‘ground truth.’ Organizations help ethical hackers or penetration testers perform these attacks in simulations. Though these are done in a controlled way, it’s good enough for the real world. But everyone has their limitations. Even if you’ve fixed every nook and corner, chances are there is a loophole. It’s just a matter of time till someone finds it.
The job of a gray hat hacker is to find these weak points and attack. Though they don’t attack to compromise, it’s not just for the chills and shivers.
Though a typical hacker may try to penetrate and gain enough leverage on the system, a gray hat hacker does things professionally and ethically. It takes time to plan out an attack, form a team if needed, target the subject and execute the attack. And it’s not done yet. Later, this information is sent to authorities to fix the issues without causing damage to customers.
Unethical Hacker Vs. Gray Hat Hacker
Many imagine hackers are famous for bad stuff related to computers. But as you’re here, we believe and know that’s not the case for you. But the characteristic of an unethical hacker remains present in the hacking environment. Here are some of the ways we may define unscrupulous hackers:
An unethical hacker selects a target and does damage for fun or profit. Without care for rules and the bound of targets, the unethical hacker has multiple simulations of attacks. It is hard to trace back to the attacker as many systems are at their disposal. Open-source intelligence gathering, fingerprinting, active scanning, escalating privileges can be seen as parks of being an unethical hacker.
Anyway, a gray hat hacker will not hold exploits to gain leverage later. So, privilege escalating is only handled by unethical hackers. On the other hand, gray hat hackers may nominate themselves or take the claim on vulnerability exposure and take the fame.
Why are Gray Hat Hackers important?
Though we did not go through all types of hacker variants in this article, it is still important to realize there are a lot of personalities fueling the passion of hacker types. We have white hat hackers trying to protect organizations or services from malicious intent. Black hat hackers will go the extra mile to conquer and make organizations, individuals’ victims. The fight is always on the run beyond the cover of the internet’s barrier.
Then we have gray hat hackers, a variant in between, hacking to find vulnerabilities without taking advantage. If we look for an example, a specific product-market can be justified. There are great products, and there are okay products. Customers try to get the best ones but can sometimes afford only the good ones. And there is another type, trying to compete with them, keeping the price tag competitive, and finding new ways to improve.
Gray hat hackers are pretty similar. Safely accessing banking systems, mobile apps, secure transactions may have flaws that organizational pen-testing employees do not detect. Those would cause a significant threat if gone to an extent without the glimpse of gray hat hackers.
Do we reward or punish Gray Hat Hackers?
What would you do if someone broke into your home to tell you the system is weak? Of Couse, you’d be mad just like the next guy. In that sense, gray hat hackers can be hard to tolerate.
But if we take it to an advanced level, where companies could suffer losses in millions of dollars and lose sensitive information about customers, we can lessen up a little bit. Organizations offer bug bounty programs targeted at gray hat hackers, where they can show off their skills and get rewarded at the same time. What’s the best benefit to gain here? You’re not breaking any law as a gray hat hacker by participating in bug bounty programs or taking permission beforehand.
Nowadays, bug bounty programs have become much popular. You can find more information about bug bounty programs on Hackerone, Bugcrowd, Microsoft’s bug bounty program, Google’s bug bounty, and many more.
As a student and learner of cybersecurity, a vast library is available online for free. Though there are tons of paid resources, free ones can be a great option as a starter. In Hackingloops, we have many courses and guidelines to cover your needs to get warmed up to become a Pentester.
- How to Get Into Cyber Security For Beginners
- Entry Level Cybersecurity jobs and guideline
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), CEH
- AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification (CLF-C01)
- Vulnhub CTF guide
- Aircrack in Kali, NMAP live host scanning, MITRE ATT&CK Framework, Hydra with Burp Suite
These are a few to learn and set up the environment of penetration tests.
At Hackingloops, we always try to push our readers with the latest forms of cybersecurity, hacking news, methods, and so on. But to an extent, it doesn’t become unethical.
Take all the knowledge, but only apply to ones bound by law. Gray hat hacking may sound exciting and shivering, but pushing into someone’s system without permission is invading privacy and not permissible by statutes.
So, take the knowledge, apply it for learning, grow your career and help others around you.