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Black hat security refers to hackers with malicious intentions who gain unauthorized access to computer networks and systems. Black hat hackers aim to exploit security vulnerabilities in software or corporate systems. This is often to achieve financial gain by holding organizations to ransom or by selling data to third-party businesses and other cyber criminals. 

Black hat security involves attackers who are intent on stealing or destroying sensitive or private data, or disrupting or shutting down networks and websites.

Who Are Black Hat Hackers? How Do They Damage the System?

There are different types of black hat hackers, from those who act alone to those who operate within large, highly profitable cyber crime organizations. Many black hat hackers started out as so-called "script kiddies," who set out to exploit security vulnerabilities then evolved their techniques to make quick money.

The upper levels of the black hat security world are skilled hackers working for sophisticated cyber crime organizations, which often work in the same way as legitimate businesses. These organizations have partners, resellers, and vendors with whom they buy and sell malware licenses for use by other criminal organizations around the world.

Black hat hackers deploy a wide range of techniques to target and attack victims. Some hacks are quick and automated, using bots that roam across the internet in search of unprotected devices and software vulnerabilities. Other attacks are the result of social engineering and highly sophisticated tactics, such as phishing attacks that spread malware and malicious links and attachments.

Black Hat vs. Gray Hat vs. White Hat

Black and white hat hackers—as well as gray hat, blue hat, and red hat hackers—are differentiated using terms inspired by old Western movies, which separated the good guys from the bad guys by the color of hat they wore. Villains wore black hats and the heroes wore white hats.

Legally speaking, the difference between white hat vs. black hat hackers is stark, and gray hat hackers are in-between on the ethical spectrum.

White Hat = only hacks for ethical reasons and does so using ethical means. They provide full transparency into their tools and methodology.

Gray Hat = consider themselves good guys, but they may not tell an organization all they do to penetrate their system or ask for approval beforehand. They may also ask the owner to pay them to fix vulnerabilities they discover.

Black Hat = hack for personal gain or to exploit a system and break the law while doing so.

Security Measures To Survive Black Hat

Black hat hackers pose a major threat to organizations’ data, systems, networks, and users. But there are security measures that businesses can implement to survive black hat hackers’ nefarious actions. These measures are regularly discussed by ethical hacking experts at Black Hat conferences.

Firewalls

Firewalls are primarily crucial to protecting the perimeter of organizations’ networks. The Fortinet FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) protect organizations from both internal and external cyber threats. They filter network traffic and provide deeper content inspection, which identifies and blocks malware and advanced security risks. 

The FortiWeb web application firewall (WAF) protects web applications from known and zero-day threats and uses machine learning to discover and block malicious activity.

Content Filters

Content filters act as gatekeepers for business users and can be configured to allow or prevent access to specific websites. This is crucial to preventing black hat hackers from leading victims to malicious websites or gaining an entry point into corporate networks.

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)

Intrusion prevention systems (IPS) detect potential intrusions to networks or servers and take action to prevent them. Fortinet delivers IPS technology through its FortiGate platform, which is proven to protect from known and evolving security threats. It uses industry-leading intelligence from FortiGuard Labs to protect organizations from the latest risks in the security threat landscape.

Server Hardening

Server machines can run services that are not necessary for them to function and present a vulnerability that black hat hackers could exploit. For example, a mail server could run File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and a web server might run a Telnet service, which are both inherently secure. These unnecessary services need to be removed to minimize the opportunities for hackers to exploit corporate systems. 

Computer Use Policy

Organizations can strengthen their systems by imposing computer policies for their employees to follow. The security technology outlined above, such as content filters, IPS, and firewalls, implement rules that define computer usage policies. But a policy also needs to cover how employees are expected to use computers, email, and the internet, as well as the consequences of violating the policy.

Security Testing

Increasingly sophisticated black hat hackers are constantly searching for vulnerabilities that enable them to exploit corporate systems and steal sensitive data. Organizations must keep pace through ethical hacking, constantly monitoring their networks, and testing their systems for new vulnerabilities. This includes running regular penetration tests and vulnerability scans that identify and mitigate potential risks.

Employee Training

An organization is often only as secure as its employees allow it to be. Employees need to follow security best practices, such as the secure use of email and other online services. They should also receive regular cybersecurity training that advises on the signs of cyberattacks, information about the latest cyber risks, and reminds them about the organization’s computer use policy and the consequences of a breach.

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet protects organizations from black hat hackers and security threats, both known and emerging, with its next-generation firewalls (NGFWs). NGFWs are crucial to protecting against internal and external threats. They filter network traffic, identify and block cyberattacks and malware, and evolve organizations' security defenses in line with the threat landscape.