Behind the Screen: Types of Hackers and Their Motivations

By |2019-12-19T07:17:38-07:00December 17th, 2019|

Behind the Screen: Types of Hackers and Their Motivations

Behind every hack is a person or group who made it happen. They might be looking for money, trade secrets, a political stance or revenge, and they can target these things with a variety of methods. But the one resource they are all after? Data. They may target customer information, financial data, industry secrets and more to reach their goals, and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) especially feel the effects of cybercrime. In 2018, 67% of SMBs reported experiencing a cyberattack within the year.

Thankfully, there are security options available to keep the data of your business, employees and clients safe. Each industry is more susceptible to certain types of hacks, and it’s essential to know what hackers do when they hack so that you can protect your business and the data they’re after.

Table of Contents

8 Types of Hackers and Their Motivations

Gone are the days of one image of a hacker. While some may be sitting in dark basements, coding away to steal your credit card information, others are trying to bring down corrupt governments or help tech giants better protect their software. Types of hackers are as varied as their methods. Here are some of the most prominent reasons behind cybercrime, though many of them overlap.

8 Types of Hackers

1. Theft

This type of hacker gets a significant amount of news and media attention, but that’s probably warranted because 71% of breaches in Verizon’s 2019 data breach investigations report were financially motivated. Hackers may target individuals or businesses to get access to credit card information, bank accounts and personally identifiable data, such as social security numbers. These hackers are in it for financial gain, one of the leading causes of cybercrime. Some will use blackmail or extortion to get businesses to hand over large sums, and others may take individual credit card numbers and rack up exorbitant charges.

2. Spamming

Sometimes spam is just one part of a larger whole. It may be one component of a phishing scam or an attempt to steal financial data or passwords. Other times, however, it’s just spam. Blasting individual accounts with ads and unwanted emails could also be an attempt at sales or getting into your computer. Spam could contain malware and attempt to spread its message by accessing others through your contacts list, social media profiles, etc.

3. Espionage

Whether it is for corporations or governments, hacking espionage targets protected information rather than money, at least directly. These hackers may be solo artists looking to grab this data and sell it. They may also be hired by a government to find state secrets for tactical or political advantages. Many major governments have hackers on staff to perform these acts. Back in 2010, a prolific attack began that originally targeted nuclear projects in Iran but later branched out to the rest of the world. This program was the Stuxnet worm, and many believe that the United States and Israel led the charge.

4. Remote Control

Sometimes controlling someone’s computer is a clear and pointed effort to disrupt an operation, gain access to data or perform malicious acts. The Stuxnet worm we mentioned? That was a control operation that took over the Iranian nuclear plant’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. It could destroy components of the centrifuges by taking over their control panels and spinning the centrifuges too quickly. Other forms of remote control can involve taking over part of the victim’s system for the gain of the hacker. They might use the system to help power a DDoS attack, mine for Bitcoin or run spamming operations.

In a DDoS attack, multiple systems are compromised and used to target a single system, overloading it with traffic and preventing it from working as intended. For example, a trojan could infect thousands of computers and have them all send signals to the same website at once. The website wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between legitimate traffic and bots and would become overloaded, maxing out its capacity. This is only possible with the help of multiple infected computers being remotely controlled.

5. Hacktivism

Hacktivism is a form of hacking that makes use of society’s sense of political awareness. It usually involves bringing attention to an issue or performing an act that negatively affects a party they believe is corrupt or malicious. They typically work with an ideology or goal in mind, which could be based on social change, bringing down oppressive governments or just plain anarchy. Some of their methods include doxing, DDoS attacks and leaking confidential information. Hacktivists can work alone or as groups, which can be sophisticated and well-organized.

Hacktivisim is a form of hacking that makes use of society's sense of political awareness.

Anonymous is probably the best-known example of hacktivism. This hacking collective spans the globe and has launched coordinated attacks against businesses, individuals and governments. Wikileaks is another popular hacktivist platform. It was developed in 2006 and operates as a whistle-blowing platform, a place to leak corporate corruption, espionage data, cover-ups and even war crimes to the world. Chelsea Manning contributed to its fame after leaking several classified documents.

6. Grudges

Disgruntled employees, competitors and customers can all pose a threat if you cross them and they have the skill or connections to wreak havoc on a system. These people may have inside information that helps them get to where they need to be.

7. The White Hat

Not all hackers are working for bad or morally gray reasons. Some work to counteract the bad guys. These types of hackers are called white-hat hackers. One kind of white-hat hacker is a vulnerability tester. They test the security of a system by performing sanctioned hacks in an attempt to find flaws or vulnerabilities in the system that could be misused by less well-intentioned hackers. Many large businesses, including cybersecurity firms, tech giants and government agencies employ this type of hacker. They may also have hackers on staff ready to fight any malicious efforts should they come under attack. Other tasks for them include finding new malware as it gets released and educating the public and staff about cybersecurity risks and best practices.

Some of these hackers may regularly work for the agencies while others freelance through bug bounty programs. Many major tech companies, like Google and Intel, offer handsome rewards for those who locate flaws in its system. Google’s highest payout is $31,337, while Intel’s is similar at $30,000. These awards are only for the highest of risks to their systems, however, as the payout varies based on the severity, complexity and type of bug or vulnerability found.

8. The Challenge

Finally, not everyone has a motive that earns them anything. Some of them just want the challenge, to see if they can do it. It offers a sense of adventure that allows them to hone their skills and gain experience while they do so. These hackers aren’t always malicious, but they can sometimes cause unintended problems in their quest for a fun time.

The Common Thread

Though they all have different motivations, one common link among these hackers is data. They want the information that you have. Whether they are motivated by financial gain, political ideology or plain old boredom, they target SMBs around the world for the data they hold dear. The increasing volume and importance of data in today’s world is a central reason why cybercrime is increasing.

Every business makes commitments to its customers and clients to protect their data. Customers need to know that they can trust the company to keep their information safe from malicious hackers. Do you collect credit card payments? Do your customers have an online account with you? Any time they put data in your hands, they are abiding by a reasonable expectation that you will protect it from cyberattacks.

Though hackers have differing motivations, one common link among them is data.

That means that you need to know about your adversary, understanding what hackers might be after and how they’re going to get at it. Hacks can be detrimental to SMBs, costing them substantial amounts of money and time while damaging their reputations. Between possible litigation, the costs of downtime while you manage the hack and any money they steal, hackers can take much more than just files. Many SMBs struggle more than large businesses due to factors like:

  • A lack of a plan
  • A low security budget
  • Inadequate network security

The economic effects of a data breach can rattle an SMB significantly more than a large business, severely disrupting operations. Budget constraints are often to blame, which is why outsourcing IT and network security is often a viable approach for SMBs.

How Vulnerable Is Your Business to a Cyberattack?

Network security is of utmost importance, yet so many small and medium-sized businesses don’t take it seriously, believing that their size makes them an unattractive target. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because of the nature of their infrastructure and security, SMBs are a prime target for hackers. They typically have limited security protocols in place and still have a significant amount of data and money to offer. Hackers prey on the belief that they are too small to be attacked. According to Verizon’s report, 43% of breaches involved small businesses, with 71% of breaches being financially motivated.

Different businesses see different threats. Below are some common industries and the most common points of entry for cyberattacks. Most are motivated by finance or espionage and go after internal or personal data or credentials. Some unsurprising exceptions include retail and healthcare, which see more compromised payment and medical data. Information and manufacturing industries see more trade secrets targeted.

  • Accommodation and food services: Point of sale intrusions, web applications and Crimeware
  • Finance and insurance: Web applications, privilege misuse, miscellaneous errors
  • Healthcare: Miscellaneous errors, privilege misuse, web applications
  • Information: Miscellaneous errors, web applications, cyber espionage
  • Manufacturing: Web applications, privilege misuse, cyber espionage
  • Professional, technical and scientific services: Web applications, everything else, miscellaneous errors
  • Public administration: Cyber espionage, miscellaneous errors, privilege misuse
  • Retail: Web applications, privilege misuse, miscellaneous errors
  • Education: Miscellaneous errors, web application attacks

How to Prevent Cyber Crime

While you may find yourself a target for hackers, the good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent cybercrime. Here are some of the most effective cybercrime solutions you can use to keep your data safe.

1. Firewall and Network Security

Perform a thorough review of your system’s security. Ensure that you have external and internal firewalls in place to form a barrier between your data and hackers. This security feature can keep your system working smoothly and prevent hackers from getting into your network.

2. Perform Regular Maintenance

One of the most significant breaches of personal information occurred at Equifax in 2017 due to a lapse in updating patched software. Many hackers prey on people who haven’t updated their software. Once the patch is released, both the hackers and the software publisher know that the bug exists, and while the publisher can fix it, it is up to the users to update their software. But let’s face it — software updates are annoying, so many people put them off. You’ll need to implement a rigorous and thorough policy for updating software, changing passwords and performing scans for malware.

Another component of maintenance involves backing up your data. Many forms of malware corrupt or hold your data hostage. You can better prepare for these situations by keeping this data in a separate location and performing backups frequently.

3. Document Your Cybersecurity Policy

To enforce this kind of updating and attention to digital safety, write down a detailed policy that addresses these regular updates and holds employees accountable for how they respond to cybersecurity across their workday. If you need help developing a policy, the FCC has created a cybersecurity planning tool.

Don’t forget to include mobile and connected devices in this plan. If you have a bring-your-own-device policy, be sure that it poses as little risk as possible to your data. This policy should include smartwatches and connected devices such as lightbulbs and security cameras. Make sure that employees know what appropriate use entails and how to access data through their devices safely.

4. Add Security Management

Many additional security tools and features help improve the overall safety of your network and business. A tool like CYBERShark can offer them all in one neat package. We provide managed security, log capture and management and regulatory compliance features. CYBERShark helps SMBs mitigate any vulnerabilities they may have and reduce the risk of a hack. We monitor your network and can provide real-time alerts, ensuring that your business keeps up with the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity.

Use CYBERShark to Protect Your Business

Understanding the nature of hackers and where data breaches come from can help inform your security strategy and better keep your data safe. Whatever industry you’re in, it pays to be cautious of hackers and cybersecurity threats. They can cost you significantly in the long run. Developing robust, thorough procedures and beefing up your network are excellent first steps, and CYBERShark can help with the latter.

CYBERShark is a cloud-based managed security program that also offers log tools and regulatory compliance, to keep you in line with requirements and accountability procedures across your business. We can monitor all traffic between every device on a network, keeping a vigilant eye out for hackers at an affordable price for SMBs. To learn more about how hacking can affect your business and what you can do to prevent it, contact us today.

Use CYBERShark to protect your business

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Don Carfagno

Strategic executive management and delivery responsibilities of BlackStratus MSP product line offerings of SIEM and Logging for direct, SOC-as-a-Service and channels. Operations professional with 20 years of security management experience. I place a high premium on cost reduction and containment for all aspects of a business. With many years of experience supporting software sales organizations I am uniquely trained to develop and coach cross functional teams. My main area of interest, what makes me want to come to work, is company building and creating successful teams. I enjoy to creating and championing the successful attitude throughout an organization.

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