Differences between Ethical Hacking and Hacking

ethical hacker pic

You’ve likely heard about “hacking” or “being hacked”, but have you ever heard about “ethical hacking”? If so, do you know the difference between hacking and ethical hacking?

Ethical hacking has become an increasingly key part of cybersecurity, as it is one form of defense from cyber attacks due to the ability to identify weaknesses in systems. Often ethical hacking is a way for programmers to identify and fix weaknesses in systems.


Usually, the first thing one thinks of when hearing the word “Hacking” is identity theft or malware on your computer. While these are forms of hacking, it is not what those in the IT or Cyber Security industry think of. Typically, in the field people who hack are classified as either black hat or white hat hackers. The key difference is that black hat hackers are those who use their skills for unethical use to steal others’ information, while white hat hackers are those who use their skills to ethically hack (hence the term name) to identify vulnerabilities in company and government data systems. Additionally, both receive their respective names based on old Western movies; where the villains always wore black hats, and the heroes always wore white hats.

Ethical Hacking

As mentioned above, Ethical hacking is very different from regular hacking. The key difference being the intention behind the cyber attack. White hat hackers are hired by governments or companies to conduct attacks on their systems in order to identify weaknesses in their current coding practices. Once an issue is identified, the ethical hacker informs the developers on the issue and where to find it so the developers can make the necessary adjustments. This is to prevent the possibility of an unethical hacker to discover the flaw in the system and exploit it. If not identified and resolved soon enough, a hacker could use this vulnerability to gain access to the system and download sensitive information.

Red Hat Hacker

Additionally, you may hear about a “red hat hacker”. These hackers are considered vigilantes who target black hats’ computers and resources to take them down. This is instead of reporting the black hats to the authorities. They are often considered similar to white hat hackers, besides their vigilante tenancies, as they aim to protect others from unethical hackers. Red hat hackers do not conduct any hacking on systems to identify flaws, therefore they are not considered ethical hackers.

Other Hat hackers include:

Gray Hat Hacker

These hackers exploit systems’ weaknesses in order to release data that they believe is important for everyone to see/know about. Their goal doesn’t have bad intentions so they aren’t considered black hackers, but they aren’t considered to be ethical hacking either.

Green Hat Hacker

Technically considered hackers, Green hat hackers are observers who are learning about the world of hacking. . They mostly stick with watching YouTube tutorials and practicing basic hacking codes. If tempted, they may use their hacking skills in real life but if things go wrong they likely will not know what to do to fix it.

Blue Hat Hacker

These types of hackers are typically perceived as amateurs and will create revenge attacks if they feel they have been wronged. They seem to be a step above Green Hat hackers, but their motives are filled by revenge.

Ethical Hacking Overview

As mentioned, the only ethical hacking done is by the White Hat hackers. Gray Hat hackers are nearby but considered more or less whistleblower of the group. While Red Hat hackers are less ethical hacking and more vigilantes of the internet. Both Blue and Green Hats are considered in the realm of beginners and are filled with varying motives. Black Hats are the typical hackers associated with hacking and who steal information to be sold on the dark web. Some of these definitions may vary depending on the person or organization.

There are a variety of other types of hackers, but these are the only ones with colors associated with them. If you would like to learn more about hacking or ethical hacking, let us know! Leave a comment below on what you would like to learn more about in the future.