Cyber security firm Cloudmark has outlined six different types of hacker: secret agents, voyeurs, hacktivists, white hats, glory hunters and cyber thieves. Whilst no two attackers are identical, these categories serve to illustrate the common denominators among each group, such as their backgrounds, locations, methods, motivations and potential targets.
Not all of the hackers are of ill-repute, but all have the capacity to breach private systems or obtain data that should otherwise be out of their reach.
The secret agent, for example, is a hacker employed by the state to spy on individuals, companies or governments. They’re not all honourable heroes, though, as some have been known to commit acts of sabotage or cyber-warfare. Protecting against secret agents (who are typically young or middle-aged males) is best handled with strong encryption, data segregation and advanced persistent threat activity.
Voyeurs, meanwhile, don’t target the data of governments or consumers, but instead the much more personal photographs and videos of celebrities. Motivated by sex, sexism and bragging rights, the voyeurs (nearly always young males) usually target private cloud storage facilities to steal images or videos not meant for public consumption.
Arguably the most well-known category is the hacktivist. These youngsters target unethical companies with the aim of exposing their suspect policies. DDoS attacks are the most common technique in use, so companies fearful of coming under hacktivist attack are advised to invest in DDoS protection (or improve their ethics/morals/public image).
White hat hackers are those who discover weaknesses in company systems, highlighting faults before someone with less honourable objectives finds the same flaw. Not all white hats work for the companies they target, though, as many are simply seeking bragging rights – and maybe a job at the end of it. Some companies even offer so-called ‘bug bounties’, with cash rewards varying in size depending on the severity of fault discovered.
Similar to white hats are glory hunters, who have the same end objective but not so much brain power. These attack with brute force, often missing flaws altogether and instead just sending sites offline. With no real benefit to their work, glory hunters sometimes end with only a prison sentence to show for their efforts.
Last is the cyber-thief who, like the name suggests, uses hacks to steal information to gain something – be it money or resources. This also spills over into email phishing scams, which have the sole intention of securing credit card details.
Looking ahead, Cloudmark expects white hats to grow in numbers much quicker than any others, as cyber-crime becomes a more pressing concern and businesses look to either bolster their systems or face the consequences.