The term's origin is often attributed to hacker culture theorist Richard Stallman (though he denies coining it) to contrast the exploitative hacker with the white hat hacker who hacks protectively by drawing attention to vulnerabilities in computer systems that require repair. The black hat/white hat terminology originates in the Western genre of popular American culture, in which black and white hats denote villainous and heroic cowboys respectively.
Black hat hackers are the stereotypically illegal hacking groups often portrayed in popular culture, and are "the epitome of all that the public fears in a computer criminal". Black hat hackers break into secure networks to destroy, modify, or steal data, or to make the networks unusable for authorized network users.
In early hacking circles, there was a whole separate term to refer to malicious hacking: those people were called crackers. Across the internet, Richard Stallman, who founded the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation, is often credited with coining the term 'black hat' hacker, but he says that's not correct. 'I have never used terms 'X-hat hacker' because I reject the use of 'hacking' to refer to breaking security,' he says. Where did the term come from then? 'I don't know where,' he says.
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