The world of hacking is an exciting and fascinating one to the outside world, the idea of men and women sat behind their computer, generating code and seeking ways to get around the defenses put in place. Many films in fact have been made, which glamorizes the world of hacking, and it is a world which is shrouded in mystery.

Hacking, of course, is a crime, but are hackers always considered as criminals? To find out more, I spoke to the brilliant Bharat Bhise HNA, a cybersecurity expert, and a good friend of mine about this subject to find out more, and here is what I learned about the three stages of criminality amongst hackers.

Legal hacking

Legal Hacking 

There are some occasions when hacking is, in fact, not illegal, and these are known as ethical hackers. These hackers play a vital role in the production of top-level cybersecurity. Without them, there would be far more attacks than we currently see. Ethical hackers are paid by a cybersecurity company or by a private firm to try and hack into their systems. They use all of the hacking skills they have learned to spot flaws or holes in the systems, to help make sure that they can become impenetrable.

Mid Level Criminal 

Any form of hacking which has not been categorized as ethical hacking is illegal, but we must understand the level of criminality amongst what I call the mid-level criminals, which are hackers who attack and steal information, but that is where their involvement ends. Many criminal organizations use hackers for hire, without telling them exactly what they are stealing or why. In this case, the hack and the theft are, of course, very illegal, and if caught, they will face the full strength of the law. It is essential to remember, however, that these men and women are essentially doing a job, rather than looking to commit a crime through a hack.

Hacker who is a full-blown criminal

Full Blown Criminal 

The final category is, of course, those who come up with a hack with the sole purpose of doing something criminal. These are the people who hack into people’s financial accounts to steal money, or who obtain personal information to sell that information on to the highest bidder. Hackers like these are the ones who the law enforcement are really looking for as they are not only committing crimes by hacking, but also committing crimes beyond that.

Ethical hackers are often borne from the mid-level hacking community, and they can be of great use in helping to improve a system. In the main, those mid-level hackers are just doing what they have to make money, and their intentions are rarely more than that. The real criminal hackers are not allowed to work as criminal hackers based on their plans from the outset, meaning that they cannot be trusted.

Hackers aren’t always criminals, but many of them certainly are.