A black hat hacker breaks into a computer system or network primarily for personal or financial gain. They sometimes also upload malware to encrypt the system, overwhelm servers and delete or steal sensitive data.
In simple terms, black hats look for and exploit vulnerabilities in computer infrastructure with malicious intent.
This guide will look at how black hat hackers work, their preferred techniques, and how to protect yourself from them.
What Are the Main Techniques Used by Black Hat Hackers?
Black hat hackers use ransomware, phishing, Trojans, DoS/DDoS attacks, brute force, keylogging, bait and switch attacks, etc., to breach computer systems and networks based on their agenda.
Historically, the Trojan horse was used by the Greeks to breach the Troy defenses in Troy. The Greeks initially presented a wooden horse to the Trojans as an offering to the goddess Athena. However, the actual intent of the horse was to help the Greeks to enter Troy (since they hid in the belly of the wooden horse) and win the war.
In the hacking world, the Trojan is malicious software (malware) that disguises itself as legitimate software to mislead users purposely.
A Trojan attack uses social engineering to gain the victim’s trust to access their software and steal, manipulate or destroy data.
This is a type of cybersecurity attack where a black hat hacker sends emails/text messages to users while posing as a legitimate entity to steal their credentials.
These emails are typically broadcasted to multiple internet users simultaneously to improve the attack’s chances of success.
The objective of the phishing message is usually to get the victim to click a malicious link or install a malicious file on their device.
For instance, a black hat hacker can set up a web page looking like your bank’s and send you an email claiming you have a tax rebate. If you click the link and enter your login credentials, the hacker gets those login details and can use them to access your real online banking account.
Keyloggers are spyware that records a user’s keyboard strokes and transmits that data to a black hat hacker. The device owner is usually unaware that their keyboard usage is being monitored and will likely continue to enter login credentials, credit card information, or any sensitive data.
Keylogging is among the oldest techniques hackers use to acquire sensitive information mischievously. In fact, Soviet Union spies in the 1970s used keyloggers on the IBM typewriters used by US diplomats during the cold war.
DoS (or a Denial of Service) attack occurs when a hacker makes a system or its resources unavailable to its users by overwhelming the system’s servers with UDP and TCP packets. On the other hand, DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) involves multiple botnet devices that flood the servers with packets from various locations.
Brute force is a security breach approach utilized by black hat hackers to forcefully gain unlawful access to a computer system and its data.
It’s a trial-and-error approach because the perpetrator submits all possible usernames and passwords systematically, hoping to guess the correct one ultimately.
As the name implies, the hacker baits the internet users into clicking on a wrong link. They may use elements such as a play button on the webpage, which switches internet users onto fraudulent sites to acquire their login credentials and personal details instead of playing an intended file.
Ransomware is malicious software deployed onto a network or computer system, encrypting the files and denying the user access.
They’re designed to hold the victims to ransom by encrypting sensitive files or threatening to delete them if payment isn’t made.
Such attacks are often quite expensive, with the average ransomware breach costing over $4 million. Celebrities and other social media personalities are also vulnerable to ransomware, as hackers seize their accounts and ask for money in exchange.
How to Protect Yourself From Black Hat Hackers?
Even though hackers are getting smarter, there are effective ways of protecting your login credentials, devices, and personal information. Here are a few:
Firewalls are hardware or software security tools that monitor your devices’ incoming and outgoing network traffic to block malware from getting to them.
Hardware firewalls are physical appliances that act as a gateway between your computer system and the internet. Conversely, software firewalls are programs installed on computers to filter out dubious internet traffic.
However, firewalls shouldn’t be your only layer of security against black hat hackers as they won’t protect you from unauthorized access and email-based threats like phishing attacks.
Use of Content Filters
Also known as internet filters, content filters are software restrictions that deny access to internet material deemed unsafe.
These come in handy when black hat hackers trick you into clicking malicious links and downloading harmful content. In these cases, the content filter will promptly deny access and warn you of a potential security breach.
These are already available on widely-used browsers like Google Chrome and Safari. Some Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers also boast a content filter (like NordVPN’s Threat Protection) for an extra layer of anti-hacker security, among other security solutions.
Security testing analyzes system software, especially for organizations, to unearth potential security weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The different types of security testing include:
- Vulnerability Scanning: Performed to identify known security loopholes and signatures.
- Penetration Testing: This is a simulated cyberattack by white hat hackers to understand the strength of existing security measures.
- Ethical Hacking: This is a broader form of penetration testing where multiple hacking methodologies are employed to expose all vulnerabilities.
- Risk Assessment: This type of assessment analyzes the risk facing a computer system and classifies it into critical, high, medium, or low.
- Security Review: This is the structured auditing of a computer system through reviewing the operating system, user practices, security of physical configuration, and existing code.
Computer Use Policies
PC-use policies instruct employees on the computing frameworks they should follow once logged in to a sensitive (such as workplace) network.
This directive protects the organization’s computers and data, as most security breaches involve the human element.
Training Employees / Representatives
Experts agree employee training on cybersecurity should occur every 4 to 6 months. This is because employees often have difficulty spotting phishing attacks from black hat hackers on their emails due to the volume of mail they receive.
The training should include the following:
- How to select strong passwords.
- Notification procedures and document management.
- Email use.
- Internet use.
- Phishing and social engineering training.
- Responsibility for company data.
Who Are the Most Famous Black Hat Hackers?
Over time, some black hat hackers have stood out for their immense hacking skills and impact on cybersecurity. These famous hackers have also aided in improving computer security as experts learned invaluable lessons from their abilities.
Here are some of the most famous black hat hackers:
Kevin Mitnick breached a computer network for the first time at 16.
This thrilled him, and he made it his life’s mission to hack into computer systems and networks. He hacked into dozens of networks, and by the 1990s, he was on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
Mitnick was eventually arrested on February 15, 1995, and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison. He was released on January 21, 2000, and has since been a paid consultant of the FBI while running a security consulting company on the side.
Jeanson James Ancheta
Jeanson Ancheta was working at an internet café around June 2004 when he discovered the botnet called rxbot that could spread across computers and infect them with malware. The then 20-year-old admitted to hijacking thousands of PCs, sending malicious spam, and attacking websites.
In November 2005, he was found guilty of 17 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes. Additionally, he was accused of infecting about half a million computers with a “zombie network” and orchestrating large-scale attacks.
Adrian Lamo (February 20, 1981 – March 14, 2018) was a threat analyst and hacker who first gained media attention in 2003 after hacking the computer networks of high-profile companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and The New York Times.
He was also known for turning in Chelsea Manning, a WikiLeaks whistleblower, to the FBI in 2010.
He was considered a gray hat hacker as he would break into computer security systems but wouldn’t cause any damage. Instead, Adrian Lamo would offer to fix the security systems of these organizations free of charge.
Lamo hoped to be hired as a white hat hacker, but his felony conviction prevented it.
White hat hackers are ethical hackers contracted by organizations to probe their computer systems’ security to unearth potential vulnerabilities.
On the other hand, black hats gain unauthorized access to computers and network systems with malicious intent, such as stealing and destroying data.
Black hat hackers are unethical and are driven by motives such as theft of intellectual property, making a political statement, revenge of some kind, fame, and mainly financial gain.
Keep Your Security Networks Safe
Cybercrime, such as unethical hacking, is on the rise and is predicted to cost the global economy trillions of dollars. To protect yourself and your devices from access by black hats, use firewalls, content filters, and the other security techniques discussed in this guide.
You should also update your security system, scan your networks for (and delete) malicious software, change your passwords regularly and avoid using similar passwords for multiple platforms. Likewise, don’t forget to set up multi-factor authentication on your accounts and devices.