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When Is Hacking Illegal And Legal? [Honest Answer]

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Today, we will answer the question – when is hacking illegal and legal?

Before we jump into the topic about when hacking is considered illegal and when it is considered legal, let’s try to understand what hacking is.

What Is Hacking?

when is hacking illegal and legal

There are many ways in which the process of hacking could be explained. It could be described as a breach of the system or unauthorized access.

Still, hacking is an unwarranted attempt to infiltrate a computer or any other electronic system to attain information about something or someone.

Anytime we hear or read about someone’s computer or some network being hacked, we instantly picture an individual sitting in a dark room full of tangled wires, computer screens, and multiple keyboards, who is rapidly typing some programming language on one of the computer screens.

While hacking is shown as something quite intriguing in motion pictures, in actuality, it is entirely different. Websites like SecureBlitz and other cybersecurity blogs can educate you with the measures you should take if your device is hacked.

The hacking scenes shown in the movies or T.V. shows are full of action, suspense, and drama, making it look enjoyable or entertaining.

But in reality, hacking is quite dull. The hacker types a series of commands telling the computer system what to do, via a programming language like Python or Perl or LISP, and waits for the results, which might take hours, but the computer does the actual part of hacking.

Along with being tedious and time-consuming, piracy is also complicated and sometimes dangerous.

READ ALSO: 14 Best Protection Tools Against Hackers

Hackers use many different types of tools to hack into a software system. A few of these tools are: 

  • Sn1per – It is a vulnerability scanner used by hackers to detect weak spots in a system or network.
  • John The Ripper (JTR) – This is a favorite tool amongst hackers. It is used for cracking even the most complicated passwords in the form of a dictionary attack. A dictionary attack is a form of brute force where the hacker enters numerous passwords hoping to guess the right one eventually.
  • Metasploit – This is a Penetration Testing Software. It is a hacking framework used to deploy payloads into vulnerabilities. It provides information about the weaknesses in software.
  • Wireshark – It is a network traffic analyzer used for network troubleshooting and analysis.

There Are Three Types Of Hackers –

There Are Three Types Of Hackers -

  • The Black Hat Hackers,
  • The White Hat Hackers, and
  • The Grey Hat Hackers.

The difference between each will be discussed below.

1. Black hat hackers 

Black Hat hackers are cybercriminals who gain unauthorized or illegal access into individual or group computers (devices and networks) illegally with the intent of stealing personal and financial information like names, addresses, passwords, credit card details, etc. 

A Black Hat hacker may also use malicious tools like viruses, Trojans, worms, bootlocker, ransomware, etc., to steal or destroy files and folders, and take hostage a computer or networks of computers, demanding money for release. 

In essence, Black Hat hackers can work alone as individuals or belong to organized crime organizations as partners or employees and are responsible for more than 2,244 computer breaches that happen daily.

2. White Hat Hackers 

White hat hackers are also known as ethical hackers; they are computer security professionals who use their hacking knowledge to protect the computer networks of businesses and organizations. 

They aim to detect and reinforce security loopholes, weaknesses, or flaws in systems and networks that cybercriminals can explore. 

For this reason, White hat hackers think and act like black hat hackers and also use a whole lot of testing tools and techniques deployed by black hat hackers in exploiting systems and network weaknesses. 

Some of the best white hat hackers were previously black hat hackers who, for various reasons, have decided to use their hacking knowledge and skills to fight against cybercrimes. 

3. Grey Hat Hackers 

Grey hat hackers are hackers who fall in between the divide; they are neither black hat nor white hat hackers, but their activities are termed ‘illegal’. 

This is because they gain illegal or unauthorized access to individual or group networks with the intent of stealing data, and discover security flaws, or loopholes existing in systems, networks, or programs. 

Unlike black hat hackers, Grey hat hackers do not seek to make immediate money or benefit from their activities. 

Grey hat hackers can be beginner hackers who hack into systems and networks to test and build their hacking skills before deciding which side of the divide to fall on.

However, most Grey hat hackers are lone-range hackers who work as bug bounty hunters, finding and reporting security flaws existing in corporate networks or extracting and exposing confidential information for all to see, like in the case of Wikileaks, which represents the largest information leak to date.

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When Is Hacking Illegal And Legal?

when is hacking illegal and legal

Hacking has always been portrayed as a felony, an unauthorized entry into a network. But it started when MIT introduced the first computer hackers whose job was to modify the software to work better and faster. However, some people started using this software for felonious activities. 

When Is Hacking Illegal?

The answer to the question – when is hacking illegal? – is simple! When a hacker tries to breach a system without authorization, it is considered unlawful. These kinds of hackers are called Black Hat Hackers. They are the type of hackers who are known for their malicious and notorious reasons for hacking. Initially, hackers used to hack to show that they can breach a system. They used to cut just for fun.

Then some hack to expose someone or to leak information. For example, the group of hackers calling themselves “Anonymous,” who claim to have personal information about Donald Trump and were threatening to expose them. They are also threatening to reveal the “crimes” committed by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) following the murder of George Floyd.

Another example is when tens of thousands of messages from hacked emails were leaked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account. The list goes on and on, as hackers don’t cut to prove a point or to expose someone. They hack for political reasons, for money, or are driven by some purpose or motive.

All of these actions are deemed illegal and felonious under the Computer Misuse Act (1990) along with other legislative acts such as the Data Protection Act (2018) and The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. 

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When Is Hacking Legal?

When Is Hacking Legal?

Legal hacking is where the hacker is granted permission to hack into a system or network. This type of hacking is also known as Ethical Hacking.

Since we live in a technological era, it has become easier for radical organizations to finance hackers to infiltrate security systems. This has resulted in a steady rise in cybercrime. 

It has become imperative now more than ever for companies and governments to legally hack into their operations to discover and fix vulnerabilities and prevent malicious and unlawful hacking from keeping the classified information safe. This type of hacking is done by either The White Hat Hackers or The Grey Hat Hackers.

The White Hat Hackers are those hackers who look for backdoors in the software when they are legally permitted to do so.

The Grey Hat Hackers are those hackers who are like Black Hat hackers but do not hack to cause any damage to any organization or people’s personal information or data. They are hired by companies or organizations to hack into their computer system and notify the administration if their order has any vulnerabilities. This is done so that these organizations can further secure their networks.

Software companies make use of such hackers and hacking processes.

There are many types of ethical hacking. A few of them are

  • Web Application Hacking,
  • System Hacking,
  • Web Server Hacking.

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Types Of Legal Hacking

Penetration testing is one common form of legal hacking categorized into three: 

1. White box testing

The tester has full information and access to the network he is testing for the purpose of simulating an internal attack.

2. Black box testing 

The tester does not have any information about the systems and networks he is testing. This testing type simulates black hat hacking attempts by trying to gain access to the system or network through trial and error. 

3. Gray box testing 

This uses a combination of white and black box testing. The tester has limited information and tries to launch internal and external attacks on the systems.

Types Of Illegal Hacking

Types Of Illegal Hacking

Black hat or illegal hackers gain unauthorized access to computers and networks to steal sensitive data and information, hold computers hostage, destroy files, or blackmail their victims using various tools and techniques not limited to the common types listed below.

1. Phishing 

Phishing technique tricks unsuspecting victims into believing they are interacting with legitimate companies or organizations. It usually comes in email or SMS messages where victims are convinced to click on a link or download malicious file attachments.

2. Ransomware 

Black hat hackers take computer hostages by blocking legal access and demanding ransom from the victims before unblocking access to their computers.

3. Keylogger 

Keyloggers are used for logging and collecting information from unsuspecting victims by remotely recording and transmitting every keystroke they make on their devices using keyloggers or spyware.

4. Fake WAP 

Hackers use fake Wireless Access Points software to trick their victims into believing they are connecting to a wireless network. 

5. Bait and switch 

The hacker tricks unsuspecting victims into believing they are clicking on adverts by buying a web space and placing malicious links that download malware to the victims’ computers when clicked on it.

Commonly Used Hacking Techniques

common hacking techniques black hat hackers grey hat hackers

Here are the most common hacking techniques used by hackers:

  • SQL Injection Attack – SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is a programming language originally invented to manipulate and manage data in software or databases.
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) – This technique is used to target websites to flood them with more traffic than the server can handle.
  • Keylogger – It is a software that documents the key sequence in a log file on a computer that may contain personal email I.D.s and passwords. The hacker targets this log to get access to such personal information. That is the reason why the banks provide the option of using their virtual keyboard to their customers.

Is Hacking A Crime In The US?

Is Hacking A Crime In The US?

Yes, hacking is a crime in the United States. Accessing individual PCs and networks without authorization or using illegal means is prohibited by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This act makes it illegal to access someone else’s computer or network without their permission.

Hacking can be done in a variety of ways. It could involve using malicious software, such as viruses or spyware, to gain access to a system or network. It could also involve exploiting security flaws or vulnerabilities in the system. 

In addition, it could involve stealing passwords or other login information to gain access to a system or network.

Since you get the answer to the question – when is hacking illegal? If you’re caught hacking in the US, you could face prosecution and serious penalties. This could include fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record. 

So if you’re considering hacking into someone’s system or network, think twice before doing so. It could have serious consequences for you and your future.

Why Is Hacking Considered A Crime?

Why Is Hacking Considered A Crime?

Hacking is considered a crime if you:

  • Delete or damage data from the computers of individuals or organizations
  • You send or aid in sending spam messages
  • Buy or sell passwords or licenses that can be used to access computers or programs for impersonation illegally. 
  • You access data or information from devices and networks without due permission.
  • You defraud victims using computer and ICT skills.
  • Access national security information from a government website or networks
  • Extort computer users 
  • And so much more.

How To Prevent Hackers

Take the following steps to protect yourself from falling victim to black hat hackers

  1. Secure your account by:

    1. Using a password manager to create, store and manage passwords
    2. Not divulging your passwords to third parties 
    3. Using two-step verification
    4. Using fake answers for security questions
    5. Logging out of your accounts, especially when using a public PC
    6. Watching out for the padlock sign and ensuring you’re on the original website
  2. Secure your phones and mobile devices by: 

    1. Regularly changing your phone security lock 
    2. Using auto-updates to keep your apps and programs regularly updated 
    3. Using your phone charger or electrical outlet connector to charge your phones when you’re in public places.
    4. Not jailbreaking or rooting your iOS and Android devices. 
  3. Secure your PC by:

    1. Encrypting the information on your hard drive
    2. Installing OS updates when available 
    3. Regularly backing up your data
    4. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading file attachments in emails.
    5. Installing anti-malware programs on your PCs
    6. Make sure your Windows or Mac Firewall is turned on
    7. Securing your PC with a firmware password
    8. Turning on remote access only when you need to; otherwise, keep it disabled.
  4. Protect your network by:

    1. Creating a strong password for your WiFi network
    2. Connecting only to secured WiFi networks. If you have to connect to a public WiFi network, do so using a VPN.
    3. Downloading files and programs from authenticated websites
    4. Not sharing too much information about yourself on social media platforms
    5. Avoiding file sharing services, including torrenting 
    6. Shopping only on verified eCommerce websites

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Conclusion

In this post, we answered the question – when is hacking illegal? and when is hacking legal?

Also, we hope that you have learned that the white hat hackers are ‘the good guys,’ and the black hat ones are the ‘bad guys,’ and what to do to protect yourself from the bad guys online.

Now that you know when hacking is legal or illegal, you should endeavor to take the steps recommended in this article to keep your devices and networks protected from ‘the bad guys who could cost you a lot if your devices or networks eventually get compromised.


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Daniel Segun
Daniel Segunhttp://www.techsegun.com/
Daniel Segun is the Founder and CEO of SecureBlitz Cybersecurity Media, with a background in Computer Science and Digital Marketing. When not writing, he's probably busy designing graphics or developing websites.
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