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Guest View: Profiling four types of hackers

Stree Naidu | Aug. 2, 2013
For the security industry, it is important to know the different types of hackers – Hacktivists, Cyber Criminals, Insider Threats, and State-sponsored Hackers.

The most highly prized commodity in the world is data. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data.[1] As individuals, we demand and consume data as if it sustains life. As corporations, we need data to drive our businesses.

Where there is demand in the market, there will be those looking to capitalise on it. And hackers are truly having a field day stealing data wherever they can find it. The fact that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone[2], is making their jobs a lot easier.

Welcome to a digital world primarily made of two groups of people: one trying to protect data and the other trying to compromise it. The lines between the two are not always clear though - an employee for example, could unknowingly become an accomplice to hackers who target specific individuals within an organisation to breach security perimeters. In fact, this type of breach, or what we call 'Insider Threats,' is one of the biggest security risks that companies are facing today. Yet, many organisations are still doing little to address this concern, largely due to a lack of understanding of who fits the profile of an Insider Threat.

The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu taught his men to "know your enemy" before going into battle. Likewise for the security industry, it is important to know the different types of hackers - Hacktivists, Cyber Criminals, Insider Threats, and State-sponsored Hackers. Understanding their motivations and preferred attack methods helps organisations deploy the right security solutions to protect their data.

1. Hacktivists

Fact: Security professionals fear hacktivism more than anything else. According to a 2012 study, more than half of respondents believe hacktivist groups are most likely to target their organisation.[3] Their fear is probably justified - hacktivism select their targets based on an ideological agenda and may target virtually any organisation that suits their objective. Any organisation that has not studied their methods and attacks is a sitting duck.

Hacktivists are motivated by revenge, politics, ideology, protest and a desire to humiliate victims; profit is not a factor. While they are not intent on data theft, they exploit data in all sorts of ways to make their political statements heard. 

Fundamentally, hacktivists are committed to using the Internet as a platform of free speech and expression. This belief unites hacktivists all over the world, so they usually operate as groups. For example, the notorious hacktivist group Anonymous is allegedly made up of individuals that are not bound by any hierarchy. They simply work together to protest against the actions of organisations that go against Anonymous' "philosophy", which is broadly Internet censorship and control, although their reasons for attack can also be linked to moral outrage. The group counts Visa, Sony and Formula One, as some of their more high-profile victims.


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