From the 1995 film Hackers to the 2015 Blackhat starring Chris Hemsworth, the movies have often dramatized, demonized, and glorified the hacking lifestyle. The reality is much less glamorous, with results that range from minor annoyances to serious infiltrations costing millions of dollars. As one average user among many, you may find it hard to imagine why a hacker would ever want to target you. Explore some of the key motives that drive these attackers from cyberspace.
Love of Money
Two of the biggest motivators in the world are money and power, and the same holds true in the realm of hacking. Hackers, also dubbed “black hats” or “crackers,” often do what they do for no reason other than monetary gain. They hunt for bank account numbers, PINs, Social Security numbers, credit card information, and social media account data, all with the purpose of exploiting that personal information and stealing money.
Thirst for Secrets
Some hackers go after other kinds information. They may target government servers and networks to obtain classified data related to national security, or they may access information from large corporations and sell it to competing companies. Whether it’s government secrets, company prototypes, or military objectives, these individuals are still primarily after monetary rewards, accumulating knowledge as a side benefit.
Proof of Power
Sometimes, a hacker will break into a particular network simply to prove that he can. It’s a way of building a reputation or proving a point. Hackers are somewhat isolated out of necessity, but they do develop rivalries with each other; and even without a rival, a hacker may keep going for the sheer joy of solving a more difficult puzzle every time.
Care for a Cause
When a hacker is driven by a cause, such as a religious or political ideal, he is dubbed a “hacktivist.” For example, an animal-loving hacker might implement a denial-of-service attack against the website of a company known for testing its products on animals. The satisfaction of drawing attention to the problem and inconveniencing the “enemy” is reward enough for this type of hacker.
Hunger for Havoc
Take the hacktivist category a step further, and you find the cyber terrorists, who are intent on causing as much harm and disturbance as possible. They want to take control of major systems, destroy infrastructure, and inject terror into the hearts of their victims. Motivated by powerful belief, hatred, or the desire for revenge, these individuals use their skills for things far worse than political statements or theft.
Defense of the User
Of course, among all the bad guys there are the few, the proud─ the “white hat” hackers. These individuals could excel in the black hat arena, but they choose to work on the opposite side, often for ethical reasons. White hats help companies test their cyber-security, probing defenses and locating loopholes so that they can be plugged.
When you understand an individual’s motivation for cyber crime, you take one more step towards being able to protect yourself and your family. Think about reasons why a hacker might target your business, your home network, or an association with which you are connected. Once you see a possible angle of attack, you can put effective safeguards in place.
How To Protect Yourself
So what can you do to protect yourself from these hackers? The first line of defense, of course, is to install antivirus software as well as antimalware software. There are several great programs out there (you can find a bit more information on www.martinustech.com for various reviews) but you should do a bit of research on them before you buy. A safe bet is of course Norton (which I use myself). But ensure that you always have active protection on your computer. Another strategy is to avoid internet “bad neighborhoods” which can be dangerous in terms of “drive by” installations of malware and spyware.