Cyber attackers shouldn’t all be painted with the same brush. There are many different types, all with separate motivations and some with specific tactics for hacking. While white and black hat hackers are the most common, a red hat hacker’s approach is interesting and unique.
Let’s take a look at what separates a red hat hacker from other types of hackers and explore their methodologies.
What Is a Red Hat Hacker?
Red hat hackers have a unique goal: to chase and bring down cyber security threat actors. These hackers take matters into their own hands rather than relying on the authorities. Once these heroic desperados track down those seeking to steal or destroy data, or other malicious activities, they gain access to and dismantle their computer systems.
Red hat hackers sometimes even collaborate directly with other groups, including government agencies.
Red Hat Hackers vs. Other Types of Hackers
While there are many different types of hackers outside of red hat hackers, some of the most common you’ll hear about are white hat, black hat, and gray hat hackers. Here’s how they all differ from red hat hackers.
White Hat Hackers
Ethical white hat hackers are trained IT professionals who use their knowledge and skills to help businesses discover their cyber security vulnerabilities. After receiving written permission to perform penetration testing, these unsung heroes plan and execute a hack, then create a prioritized response to build a strong cyber security defense.
While red hat hackers aim to help companies as well, it’s more of a byproduct of their approach to taking down black hat hackers.
Black Hat Hackers
Despite their similar abilities, red and black hat hackers have very different goals. Black hats steal data or bring down systems for their own benefit, unlike red hats who use their knowledge and skills to accomplish good while giving threat actors a taste of their own medicine.
Both types of hackers do, however, know how to infect systems with malware and have the skill sets that allow them to gain remote access to devices or launch an attack.
Gray Hat Hackers
Gray hat hackers lie between the ill-intentioned black hat hackers and the ethically-motivated white hat hackers. Most of the time, gray hat hackers are not motivated by "bad" intentions.
Gray hat hackers, while not as nefarious as black hat hackers, still frequently use unapproved system exploits to compromise technology or data. They may even steal information with the intention of using it for “the greater good” as a form of “hacktivism.”
Red hat hackers fall between white hat and gray hat hackers. While taking matters into their own hands, such as gray hat hackers do, red hats don’t aim to hurt companies for societal causes. They only wish to improve cyber security health while purging threats.
What Makes a Red Hat Hacker Unique?
They Mainly Target Linux Systems
Linux is a flexible, open-source, community-developed system used for computers, mobile devices, servers, mainframes, and other embedded devices. It is the most commonly supported operating system (OS), offering hardware resource management, application launch and administration, and user interfaces.
Red hat hackers typically target Linux systems because of their open-source nature, which provides easy access to both command-line interfaces and popular hacking tools.
Their Goal Is To Disarm Black Hat Hackers
This unique type of hacker simply does not have any intention of harming the innocent. Their goal is to stop threat actors, and they are willing to breach the systems of black hats using any means necessary.
They Are Social Engineering Masters
A common means of gaining access to and dismantling network systems is social engineering. Using clever and manipulative tactics, victims are deceived into revealing private or sensitive information, allowing hackers to breach network systems.
The black hat victims of red hats are skilled threat actors who also use social engineering tactics. The thrill of outwitting bad actors — using their own methods — provides the satisfaction these heroic outlaws seek.
They Live By Their Own Rules
These antiheroes often don’t follow rules, regulations, or laws in their pursuit of justice, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to hunt down threat actors and destroy their systems. As a result, red hat hackers are like vigilantes in cyber security; even if it means operating on the fringes of ethics, they still aim to stop threat actors because they believe it’s morally justifiable.
Know Your Threat Actor and Protect Your Cyber Security System
According to Sun Tzu in The Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
To protect your valuable data and business network systems, you must know yourself and your enemy.
Mitigating the risks of cyber threats requires that you understand the types of hackers threatening your business, analyze your systems and processes through comprehensive pentesting services, and implement prioritized security action steps.
Are you ready to drastically mitigate your cyber security risks? Download this checklist to learn how to protect your organization and avoid cyber threats in 5 ½ easy steps.