Know Your Enemy: 7 Hackers and Their Motivations

Posted on 29 September 2017

When it comes to protecting your organisation’s data, hackers are probably your public enemy number one. When trying to keep your organisation safe, knowledge is your strongest power, so it’s time to get to know your enemy a little better.

Whilst it’s not new information, a field guide to hackers and what motivates them is still useful to organisations seeking to protect their data. That’s because, to protect against your enemy, you must first know them. So who are the hackers behind the screens?

1. Script Kiddies

hackers - script kiddies

Who are they?

 Often bored teens, hacking alone. They don’t put much time or thought into gaining computer knowledge on their own, instead, they’re more likely to exploit existing code.

What motivates them?

Thrill seeking is their main motivation. These budding criminals mostly hack for fun, recognition, and bragging rights – but that doesn’t mean they can’t pose a serious threat.


2. Hacking Groups

hackers - groupWho are they?

A loose collection of script kiddies who join forces because they know that they wield more power as a collective than as individuals and can cause serious damage when they all work together.

What motivates them?

While often disregarded by some for the same reasons as script kiddies, underestimate them at your peril. These hackers, when working together, are emboldened by their status as a collective. They make use of the combined range of skills within their group, giving them the ability to attack via many different angles. Alone, they are very effective, but as a group, they have the potential to wreak a great deal more havoc. 


3. Hacktivists

hacktivist hackersWho are they?

Collectives of savvy, politically motivated, and often exceptionally skilled hackers. They’re fighting a war and cyber security is their weapon of choice.

What motivates them?

Grounded in hacker culture and ethics, hacktivist goals are often inspired by a passionate commitment to free speech, human rights, or freedom of information.


4. Black Hat Professional Hackers

Who are they?

Highly experienced hackers who hack for living, bringing decades of extensive computer knowledge to the table. They are masters in figuring out new ways to infiltrate impenetrable targets, developing avenues of attacks that often prove costly for both their targets.

What motivates them?

A broad range of incentives and goals attract hackers at this elite level. For some, it’s all business to them, so money is the main motivator. Other reasons include perceived revenge against a previous employer or business that somehow crossed them, public attention, bragging rights, access to valuable data, and even mere amusement. Professional Black Hats are the scourge of businesses and governments alike. In fact, a large number of black hat hackers are affiliated with organised crime, which leads us neatly on to…


5. Organised Criminal Gangs

Who are they?

Think of them as The Mafia, only with computers. Led by seasoned professional criminals, these very talented hackers function within a sophisticated structure, guided by strict rules to ensure their crimes go undetected by law enforcement. 

What motivates them?

Forget the image of a 17-year-old hacker, working alone in his parents’ basement; instead, picture sophisticated and organised cybercriminals who choose this way of life as a profession. They’re driven by the immense amounts of money they can make at this level, and how much “easier” cybercrime is relative to more traditional criminal activity. It’s a lot more dangerous to rob a bank IRL and run out of the building with as many swag bags as your arms can carry, but it’s a lot easier to do it via the internet, quickly stacking up zero’s at breakneck speed.


6. Nation-State Hackers

Who are they?

Nation-State hacking is organised cybercrime at the international level, and revolves around using cyber attacks as military, political, and economic weapons.

What motivates them?

Nation-states are more interested in political and economic espionage – stealing state secrets, intellectual property, and the personal information of government employees – than simply making money. One notable example was the hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which put at risk the personal information of up to 14 million current and former federal employees. Nation-state hackers often hit the headlines around political elections, such as the DDoS attack on the Labour party’s website ahead of the 2019 election, but they’re actually working hard on their agenda 24/7.


7. The Cyberweapons Dealer

Who are they?

A more seasoned criminal who sells automated pieces of software that act like weapons, mostly to nation states or organised crime rings, but really to anyone who can afford them.

What motivates them?

Money – a lot of it. Just like conventional weaponry, the cyber-arms market is a large and profitable industry, and in some cases, cyberweaponry can be more deadly than a bullet. Cyberweapons dealers operate on the black market, selling dangerous tech to the highest bidder – terrorist organisations, dangerous criminals, nefarious government bodies – they don’t discriminate.

Looking to secure  your organisation against whatever threat an attacker might throw at it? Get in touch with our team, they’re dedicated to protecting your data and keeping hackers at bay.

A few people we've already done it for