Hacking is a dangerous game. To capture cybercriminals, most countries have stringent security regulations and cybersecurity departments that work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement officials. Apart from possessing technical experience, competent hackers must also know how to monetize their hacking skills without getting caught. You’ll also need a lot of hacker inspiration.
But why would a gifted individual with extensive knowledge of information technology and financial networks want to risk being hacked? What drives them to become a hacker? In this article, we’ll look at seven hacker motivation factors to better understand why hackers do what they do.
Motivation of Hackers: Why Do Hackers Do What They Do?
Hacker Motivation 1: Achieving Financial Gains
This one is fairly self-evident in terms of hacker motivation. Money is a huge motivator for many types of criminals, including cybercriminals. In fact, according to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 86 percent of the data breaches they investigated were motivated by money.
Hackers who benefit financially at the expense of others by engaging in illicit activities are classified as black hat hackers. However, there are legitimate ways for hackers to make money. They’re known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers. (We’ll discuss them at the end of this article.)
These are some of the most popular ways that hackers (especially black hat hackers) make money.
Hackers use a range of methods to steal victims’ financial or personally identifiable information (PII), including malware, phishing attacks, and brute-force attacks. They will then use the information to commit financial fraud, such as making bogus transactions or transferring funds to their (hackers’) bank account.
Hackers may also use your PII to commit the following identity theft-related crimes:
- Make an application for a loan in your own name.
- Create a forged passport or immigration document.
- Using your overdraft/balance cap to open a bank account or apply for a credit card in your name.
- Send phishing emails, SMS phishing messages, and fake phone calls in your name.
- Make a fictitious social media site under your own name (which they can use to scam other targets).
- File for state/federal insurance programmes impersonating you, such as unemployment compensation.
Selling Data on the Dark Web
On the dark web, some hackers sell the information they steal. This is essentially an underground market where hackers and other cybercriminals can participate in both legitimate and illegal activities. Other cybercriminals purchase confidential and sensitive information in order to commit financial fraud and other PII-related crimes. Also shady online marketers and advertisers are interested in such information. They may use it to send spam emails or create targeted ads.
If your information is compromised as a result of this hacker motivation, it’s a lose-lose situation in either case.
Blackmail is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of every cybercriminal, including hackers. Hackers, for example, can steal sensitive data or intercept personal media files (images, videos, and so on) and demand payment in exchange for the information not being released publicly. They can also encrypt sensitive information or lock users out of their own computers, then demand a ransom in return.
To steal data and lock down infected computers, hackers use malware such as ransomware and spyware. Hackers have been known to break into the databases of businesses and government agencies in order to gain access to their information. They then demand ransom money in exchange for not disclosing trade secrets or other classified information to the public.
Some hackers are programmers who create malware such as worms, trojans, viruses, scareware, and rootkits, among other things. They have the choice of using or selling these malware programmes to other cybercriminals.
Using Psychological Manipulation and Social Engineering
Cybercriminals use phishing as one of their most successful techniques. Hackers send phishing messages to victims pretending to be someone or any organisation they trust. They use psychological manipulation to persuade victims to give money to them by:
- Pretending to be in a false emergency and requiring their assistance.
- Accusing the victims of breaking the law and seeking restitution.
- Impersonating a legitimate charity or non-profit organisation and requesting a donation.
- Falsely alleging that the victim’s computer is infected with a virus and providing a fake malware removal service (which could lead to the target’s computer being infected or otherwise compromised).
- Using deception or manipulation to persuade them to purchase phoney apps, goods, or educational materials.
These are only a few of the methods used by hackers to make money. As you can see, they use deception, manipulation, threats, and extortion to manipulate and blackmail victims and other targets.
Hacker Motivation 2: Carrying Out Political Agendas
Governments in some countries employ hackers to conduct political espionage. Hackers who participate in state-sponsored cyber attacks are referred to as nation-state actors in these cases. Hackers in this role are given responsibilities such as:
- Stealing sensitive, confidential, or classified data (research, trade secrets, or even personal information on specific targets).
- Manipulating or otherwise interfering with elections.
- Stealing or leaking government or military documents.
- Interfering with the economy.
- Interfering or affecting relationships or treaties with other nations.
In order to trigger political instability in the enemy nation, recruiting governments often release compromised or breached data to the public. To cause functional or operational disruptions, hackers often hack or launch cyber attacks, such as DDoS attacks, on the rival county’s government websites and servers. State-sponsored cyber attacks are another name for these forms of attacks. Countries like Iran, China, North Korea, and Russia are well-known for using such strategies.
Hacker Motivation 3: Performing Corporate Espionage
Hackers are hired by certain businesses to steal sensitive information from competitors. Hackers are tasked with locating leaky or compromised databases or launching attacks on the target organization’s servers or websites in these circumstances. They can use brute force attacks, SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and DDoS attacks to attack in a variety of ways.
But what exactly are the types of data that the hackers are searching for? The target data may be anything, but it usually falls into one of the following categories:
- Trade secrets,
- Key customers, suppliers, vendors,
- Pricing information,
- Data regarding future financial and marking planning,
- Technical schematics or sensitive product information.
Some businesses employ hackers to use DDoS attacks to slow down or crash a competitor’s website. This form of attack effectively overloads the organization’s web servers, rendering them inaccessible to customers. They can also want to leak sensitive consumer information in order to smear a competitor’s image.
Hacker Motivation 4: Proving a Point (Hacktivist)
Some hackers are unconcerned with monetary gain. Instead, they hack to prove or impose their social, legal, religious, or political beliefs on others.
For example, in January 2020, Iranian hackers targeted the United States Federal Depository Library Program’s website, displaying an image of President Donald Trump over a map of the Middle East to express their outrage over the death of Iran’s late major general Qassim Soleimani.
Example 2: In July 2015, the “Impact Team,” a hacktivist group, hacked the online cheating website Ashley Madison. What’s the end result? The personal information of 32 million members was made public. They made the members’ data public in order to teach them a lesson and force the site’s owner to shut it down.
Hacker Motivation 5: Taking Personal Revenge
Some hackers use their hacking skills to exact personal vengeance on an individual or organisation for a suspected or actual wrongdoing. The hackers annoy their adversary in a variety of ways, including:
- Locking the computers of their targets.
- Encrypting or erasing their information.
- The public release of private data/personal media files (called doxxing).
- Several spam and phishing emails were sent to them.
- Hacking into their social media accounts and posting false or inappropriate information.
- Their email accounts were hacked, and phishing emails were sent to their contacts.
Hacker Motivation 6: Causing Harm for Personal Enjoyment
Some black hat hackers hack solely to cause havoc, injury, or panic. They enjoy smearing a person’s or company’s name, disrupting government operations, or erasing vital data. They may be addicted to hacking and get a rush from breaking into a device or defrauding others.
Hacker Motivation 7: Mitigating Cyber Threats
This is the final hacker inspiration that we’ll discuss in this post. Hackers often use their skills to harass or prevent other hackers from committing crimes. These hackers are usually classified as either white hat or red hat hackers.
White hat hackers, also known as ethical hackers, work to protect websites, servers, and databases from malicious black hat hackers. White hat hackers use the same hacking tactics as black hat hackers, but only with the approval of the device owner and using legal methods. They work as information security experts, cybersecurity researchers, security consultants, penetration testers, and so on for businesses and government agencies. They also work as freelancers or independent consultants.
The goals of white hat hackers are usually to:
- Find and patch device flaws before black hat hackers can take advantage of them.
- Create malware detection and removal protection software.
- Users should be informed about various cyber threats and how to avoid them.
- Prepare for a cyber threat by making contingency arrangements.
- Enhance the software and hardware components’ overall security posture.
However, there is another kind of hacker who enjoys going after the bad guys: red hat hackers. Red hats are similar to black hats in that they don’t always follow the rules when it comes to their attacks and can hack without permission. Rather than going after companies and other legal users, they’ll go after other hackers.
Other Hacker Motivations
There are, of course, other kinds of hacker motives that we haven’t discussed yet. Human curiosity and a willingness to learn are two of the most fundamental. Some new or novice hackers simply want to broaden their awareness and skills and “flex their muscles,” as the saying goes.
Of course, there are hackers who do what they do in order to gain recognition and make a name for themselves. Still, whatever their reasons for hacking, we can learn a lot from hackers and their motivations.
Final Words on Hacker Motivation
As you can see from the preceding paragraph, not all hackers have nefarious motives. Hackers are security experts who work to secure our data and infrastructure, but these are the good-intentioned white hat hackers. Now that you know why hackers do what they do, you can investigate the six different forms of hackers to see how they vary. Also, read this black hat vs white hat hacker article to learn about the different types of hacking operations that both types of hackers engage in.