Hostile hackers may be driven by profit, politics or ideology. The bottom line for any business management team is, if you possess valuable digital assets and your security regime is breachable, you need to be better prepared to weather many different kinds of cyberattacks committed by a range of perpetrator types using methods that span everything from social engineering scams that trick users into providing sensitive information, to infecting an organization with ransomware or another form or malware, or exploiting network weaknesses to gain access to passwords and everything your company holds dear.
Here’s a quick catalog of the various hacker types circling the security perimeters of today’s companies on a daily basis. Their motivations, skill levels, tactics and technology all vary.
We start our overview with a bright spot. These “hacking good guys” try to stay on top of the latest cyber bad-guy tactics and techniques in order to alert us about new threats and develop defensive countermeasures. When White Hats attack an organization’s infrastructure, their purpose is to identify holes and help improve cybersecurity.
Gray Hats are more like vigilantes, hacking without permission, perhaps violating laws or ethical standards, but without malicious intent. So, we generally appreciate their existence and expertise in the dark arts.
Professional Cyber Mercenaries.
These commercially motivated miscreants-for-hire provide weaponized hacking technology to clients willing to pay for it. They are sophisticated, agile, and technically proficient. They focus on conducting “snatch and grab” style heists, but are also available to perpetrate Advanced Persistent Threats (see next item), malware, and pretty much any form of cybercriminal wrongdoing.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). APT intrusions are designed to go undetected over the long term while hackers open multiple unauthorized back doors, install malware, steal data, and wreak havoc over time. At first, the network is compromised but not breached. Only after the hacker has collected data on a staging server is it taken off the network. At this point the network is considered breached.
Traditional crime rings applied to the modern digital world. They perpetrate cyberattacks for profit. Ransomware, spamming, backdoor intrusions and any type of mayhem intended to steal resalable data and private personal information, get access to accounts, and exploit other ways to profit through victimizing organizations or individuals.
Skilled amoral freelancers attempting to monetize cyberattacks for profit. They may be loosely networked with other individual bad guys or informal teams.
Disgruntled employees, whistleblowers, angry contractors looking for “payback.” Insider hacks can be devastating, releasing sensitive documents, disrupting operations, and destroying valuable—even mission-critical—data.
Directed and backed by a state entity. These hackers don’t have to worry about getting caught because their political bosses are enthusiastic sponsors of their cyberattacks.
Nation State Actors.
Military units. Covert intelligence. Espionage. These are long-term functions with plenty of ongoing funding to execute missions of disruption, intelligence gathering, propaganda dissemination, and other governmental initiatives. Another source of advanced persistent threats.
Common miscreants and hacking hobbyists.. Varying, but usually low, skill levels. Troublemakers, attention seekers, petty thieves. Often operate at the level of denial of service attacks or remote access Trojan malware.
Ideologically or politically driven “cyber ethicists” trying to degrade, defame, and “expose” organizations they oppose or disapprove of. Favored tactics include denial of service attacks, website defacements, internal information exposure.
Cybercrime is a well-established global “industry.” Take aggressive countermeasures now. Can hardware-based encryption technology help your organization safeguard itself from the full range of motivated hackers arrayed against it? Learn more.