The Five Hackers That You Need To Worry About

I admit it – I love conspiracy theories! Reading about them, watching programmes about them and, best of all seeing them debunked. So, it goes without saying that I enjoy series that dig into this murky world: documentaries, docu-dramas, thrillers anything that goes “undercover”. My favourite at the moment is Spooks, an older British series about MI5 operatives it first aired in 2002 and ran for 10 seasons until 2011. In the earlier episodes, the focus is more on “physical” espionage – stealing papers and the like, the rise of cybercrime is mirrored in the newer episodes which deal much more with the hacking of government systems.

I’ve got to say, the tech they use is amazing – the speed at which the authorities can access security cameras coupled with the resolution of said cameras, wow, just wow! And what processing power they had to run the facial recognition programmes! And then they discover “The Cloud” and it’s funny to hear the terms they use to describe it and what it does, or rather did (or didn’t do) just a mere 10 years ago in 2011.

We hear daily reports about the rise of cybercrime and how much it costs companies in terms of loss of revenue, trust and money (in the form of ransoms), what we don’t hear so much about it is the cost of cyber-espionage, hacking incidents against governments – there can’t be much financial reward in that for these cyber-terrorists because we all know that governments don’t negotiate with terrorists!

5 Main Types of Hackers

This led me to think that they must reap their rewards in other ways, so who are they – what are the different “breeds” as it were – the commercial vs. the idealist hackers:

  1. The Cyber Warrior
  2. The Principled Idealist
  3. The Nationalist
  4. The Malicious Insider
  5. The Professional Mercenary

Let’s take a look at who they are, their targets, motivations, and their tools.

1. The Cyber Warrior

Characteristics

  • State actors, motivated by national interests
  • Dedicated and highly trained
  • Primary Goal – misinformation and cyber warfare (emphasis on economic destabilisation)
  • Secondary Goal – theft of proprietary IP

Modus Operandi

Advanced Persistent Threats, Malware, SQL injections, Trojans, Sniffers

Preferred Targets

Defense, governments, energy & utilities, technology

2. The Principled idealist

Characteristics

  • Agenda driven, ideologically motivated
  • Skill level varies
  • Dispersed organisation structure, akin to a terrorist cell
  • Goal – widescale disruption

Modus Operandi

Botnets, Distributed Denial of Service, Trojans, Malware

Preferred Targets

National and local government, defense, technology

3. The Nationalist

Characteristics

  • Fierce nationalist
  • Hacking skills vary – typically low to mid-level
  • ‘Proxy’ non-state actor i.e., ‘patriot’ volunteer – works from home
  • Goal – theft of proprietary IP & secrets

Modus Operandi

Distributed Denial of Service, Malware, SQL injections, Trojans

Preferred Targets

National and local government, defense, technology, R&D Centres

4. The Malicious Insider

Characteristics

  • Commercially or ideologically motivated employee, or ex-employee
  • Trained and proficient6 – has insider knowledge
  • Typically an individual – a lone operator
  • Goal – theft of proprietary IP, trade secrets and national intelligence

Modus Operandi

Data theft via email, USB or mobile; disruption via servers/network

Preferred Targets

Employer, ex-employer

5. Professional Mercenary

Characteristics

  • Commercially motivated cybercriminal – part of a criminal syndicate
  • Sophisticated skills: ruthless, skilled, technically proficient
  • Significant resources and agile organisational ability
  • Goal – steal personal and corporate financial information to re-sell for profit and/or re-direct funds

Modus Operandi

Advanced Persistent Threats, SQL injections, Malware, Trojans, Sniffers

Preferred Targets

The financial sector, retail, healthcare

Now, please excuse me – I’m going back to Spooks.

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