We're addressing a question we get asked all the time: What does a hacker look like?
We can tell you that they don’t all wear hoodies and Guy Fawkes masks. We’re also discussing the difference between white hat and black hat hackers.
What Hackers Look Like
What's the difference between white hat hackers and black hat hackers?
A hacker in general is somebody who gets very curious about something and they want to understand everything they can about it. They do this either to improve it or to break it—either maliciously or they're going to break it to try to improve it.
The way that a black hat hacker does this is in a malicious way, either by keeping a business from being able to conduct business or by profiting off of ransomware.
White hat hackers, on the other hand, model what the bad guys do to find how they got in and then help to fix the hole. We improve security by purposely breaking it and then by trying to figure out a solution of how to make sure it can no longer be broken.
What do hackers look like?
Most people probably think a hacker is a guy in a black hoodie and a Guy Fawkes mask. While that makes for some pretty good vendor marketing out there, it's not accurate. A physical social engineering engagement is not going to work with an awkward kid in a black hoodie. While that was entertaining to see on Mr. Robot, that's not how it works in the real world.
"Black Hats" and "White Hats" are comprised of very diverse cultures and personalities. A hacker can look like anyone.
Some hackers have the stereotypical tattoos and piercings and listen to "angry" music, while others are clean-cut and listen to Dave Matthews (looking at you, Will). Some hackers come from computer science backgrounds, while others hail from law enforcement or the military.
The point here is, don't ever assume what a hacker "looks like." By design, we look like everybody. You won't be able to tell the difference.
Keep this in mind the next time a "big guy with tattoos" comes into work on your firewall... or when a guy in a nice suit walks into your organization and starts asking questions.