We talk a great length about cyber crime. From trends in phishing to exploits to cyber security threats and so much in between. But we don’t often think about who is committing the cyber crime and what motivates them.
The motivations for cyber criminals can be quite simple. The two that make up the huge majority are money and information. According to a Verizon Enterprise report, financial and espionage-driven motivation make up a full 93% of motivation for attacks. Aside from that, the less-frequent but broader set of motives is often categorized as “FIG” (Fun, Ideology, and Grudges).
The core motives can vary depending on what the cyber criminal is after, whether they are executing the attacks of their own initiative or if they’ve been contracted to do so, and who might benefit in what way from a successful cyber crime. This variety can be illustrated as follows:
This can be the motive for many types of attacks, including ransomware, phishing and data theft (for sale or ransom of records). The transaction will often use a cryptocurrency if smaller in transaction size, or wire transfers for greater amounts. The cyber criminal will make money either by extracting money from the victim directly, or capitalize on the sale of their data in underground marketplaces.
Getting into a manufacturers system can be valuable, whether for IP, blackmail, competitive intelligence, creating a PR nightmare (sabotage), or other reasons. This is especially risky given the (lack of) technical sophistication of systems across industries with complex intellectual property at their core, whether they be in technology, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing, resource extraction, general utilities, industrial systems or similar sectors.
As we are seeing with numerous state actors, cybercrime is a growing tool used to achieve political ends. Whether using hacking to shut off a country’s electrical power, manipulate elections or distribute ransomware, state action is growing as a threat to all organizations – even if they aren’t a direct target.
Some criminals enjoy being able to exploit weaknesses. Others do it for ideological reasons or to drive disclosure of information they deem is in the public interest, and some may just never let grudges go, whether it be from bad service, a faulty product or to settle any kind of score. They might use any of the tactics mentioned above, or execute DDoS attacks based on their motives as well, though that tactic could be applied to political or competitive motivations as well.
While there isn’t an exceptional amount of data to draw on about attacks and their motivations, we did find an interesting Raconteur infographic. It brings up a few key takeaways to consider.
- Financial crime is the most common objective of attacks (41%). This comes as no surprise, but what may come as a surprise is that insider threats (27%) and competitive (26%) objectives in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
- The Manufacturing industry seems to be at a far greater risk of attacks for espionage motivations than for financial motives.
- While the Healthcare industry is targeted for financial motives, it has the highest incidence of FIG motivations.
- Public administration is the victim of fewer espionage attacks (both as ratio of overall attacks and in absolute numbers) than the manufacturing industry. This is surprising at first, but could be result of a smaller number of public administration targets compared to manufacturing, or that public administration is better prepared and aware of the value their information has to attackers.
It’s also worth highlighting how the word hacking is misused. A discussion on why “hackers hack” wouldn’t be fair without stipulating what we mean by hacker. The hacker-tinkerer of the 80s and 90s appears to be synonymous with the cybercriminal, an equivalency that is patently unfair. The motivation of hackers – the ones who are looking for bugs and reporting them – are very different and not criminal in nature. According to one report, 72% of hackers do it for money, that includes legal bounties paid by the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple and others. 70% Agreed that they do it for fun.