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The Most Common Reasons Hackers Hack

Although financial gain might seem like the  No. 1 source of hacker motivation, some cybercrimes have more to do with opportunity than with greed. Any company with customer or personnel data has something to lose, regardless of the business’s financial status.

Breaking into corporate files or networks offers many opportunities for hackers, from enacting a ransomware attack to gaining access to bank accounts. Company stakeholders concerned about network safety should read on to understand who hackers are, what they do and why they do it.

Who Are Hackers?

Hackers are trained technical professionals who break into computers or network systems to steal data or gain access to confidential information. The purpose of being a hacker is to find vulnerabilities in systems or people and exploit these weaknesses to access computers, systems and files. While people of any demographic can become hackers, these individuals often possess similar characteristics, including problem-solving skills, technical know-how, persistent attitudes and questionable morals.

What Motivates Hackers?

Hacker motivation can result from greed, curiosity or a desire for personal or political revenge. Not all hacking activities are nefarious, though. Ethical hackers are motivated by finding weaknesses in systems to help software developers or system engineers improve security.

Why Do People Get Hacked?

Flawed human decisions, such as poor password selection, misuse of access privileges or trusting the wrong person, are major reasons people get hacked. Social engineering scams, in which an outside actor poses as a trusted colleague or associate to obtain passwords or confidential information, rely on human error. While many people think software security is the only way to stop cybercriminals from using these hacking opportunities, cybersecurity awareness training can give employees the tools they need to recognize and report suspicious activity before a breach occurs.

Top 5 Hacker Motivations

Finding out what hackers want most can help a business or organization bolster security around certain files or databases. Corporate IT teams and employees should not underestimate the importance of learning and using diverse hacker motivations to help guide security measures. The top five reasons for hacking include:

1. Monetary Gain

Most hackers want money and stealing sensitive data is a lucrative business for anyone with the know-how to infiltrate network security and sell the information. According to this data breach investigations report, the majority of breaches involving external actors were financially motivated crimes. Hackers sell passcodes or data to criminals on the dark web or they use extortion tactics, known as ransomware, to try to force a company to pay to gain access to the stolen data. Hackers can also gain financially by getting passcodes or files and selling these to cybercriminals, who then execute a ransomware attack.

2. Industrial Espionage

Not all reasons for hacking are about individual gain. Those who commit cyber espionage are hackers motivated by industry competition. These actors hack into a rival’s files to find trade secrets or intellectual property or to deploy spyware or other types of malware to get access to private communications and thus gain a business advantage.

3. Hacktivism

Hacktivism is a blend of the words “activism” and “hacking” and describes when someone hacks for social or political reasons.  These hacktivists gain access to an organization’s systems to deface its website, redirect traffic to another site or use whistleblowing tactics to reveal secrets or data.

4. Revenge Hacking

A hacker’s motivation can also stem from his or her hubris. Being let go from a job or feeling undervalued at work can prompt individuals to seek hacking opportunities for revenge. These actions might include accessing and sharing personal data to embarrass a person or holding onto confidential information to instill fear in the victim.

5. Curiosity and Learning

Some hackers simply enjoy the intellectual challenge of finding and exploiting security weaknesses. While these hackers can seek ethical hacking as a profession, helping businesses discover flaws in their security systems and personnel, most of these individuals instead choose to act for notoriety or personal pride.

Companies can avoid giving cybercriminals hacking opportunities by investing in IT solutions designed to protect businesses. With the right support, employees can stay focused on what matters, leaving the technical details to FTC’s expert IT team.