Cyber-attacks are a growing threat in today's world and are becoming increasingly prevalent. As the saying goes in the cybersecurity community, "There are those who have been hacked and those who will be." When I ask individuals if they are worried about being hacked, around 75% respond with, "Why would a hacker target me? I don't have anything valuable to hide." This apathetic attitude prompted me to write this article, in which I aim to shed light on the motivations behind hacking, the different types of hackers, and the profits they can earn.
Hackers can be divided into several categories based on their goals and motivations. The most dangerous and skilled group is known as "Nation-State Actors." These hackers are financially supported by governments, mainly the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea, and have nearly unlimited resources and time. Their primary goals are espionage and cyber warfare. Many of their attacks garner widespread media attention due to their large-scale impact. A prime example of a nation-state actors' attack is the SolarWinds hack in 2020, which targeted multiple US government agencies. Their targets are typically government agencies, electrical grid systems, power plants, and companies that work with the government as software or hardware vendors or consultants.
The next group is cybercriminals, whose primary motivation is financial gain. Cybercrime is the largest area of hacking, as many individuals turn to hacking as a means to quickly make money. The most common type of attack performed by these groups is ransomware with extortion. They have moderate to high resources and knowledge and can cause significant damage to their targets. Their targets are organizations that hold valuable data, such as airlines, banks, IT companies, and hospitals.
The final two groups are "Hactivists" and "Script Kiddies." Both groups have low to moderate resources and knowledge. Hactivists are hackers who engage in cybercrime for ideological or religious reasons. Their attacks often take the form of fake news, denial of service, and ransomware. Script Kiddies are inexperienced hackers who use programs and malware they find online to hone their skills. They are usually young individuals, often teenagers, who hack for fun or to show off to their peers. Their hacks include stealing Wi-Fi passwords and college exams.
Now that we understand the different types of hackers, let's delve into the value of the data they steal. Credit card information is a commonly stolen item. Most credit card theft occurs on fake websites that trick individuals into entering their credit card information. The value of stolen credit cards on the black market ranges from $5 to $110 per card.
Online payment services, such as PayPal, are also frequently stolen. These thefts occur by tricking individuals into entering their credentials on fake websites or by using credentials obtained from other hacked accounts, such as Facebook or email. The value of an online payment service account can be as high as $200.
Gmail accounts are also valuable to cybercriminals and are sold for around $156 each. Many individuals reuse their email credentials, making Gmail accounts easy targets.
Healthcare organizations are also frequent targets of cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are seeking protected health information (PHI) in these attacks. Stealing PHI is more lucrative than stealing credit cards, as healthcare organizations lack advanced fraud detection systems, and PHI provides much more personal information than a credit card. By using PHI, cybercriminals can commit health insurance fraud, illegally obtain prescription drugs and medical equipment, and create fake identities and passports that can be sold for a significant profit. As a result, PHI can be worth up to $1000 per piece.
The most lucrative venture for cybercriminals is ransomware, hence why these types of attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent. Ransomware is a tactic employed by cybercriminals where they scramble your data, sometimes even stealing it, and then demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. A successful ransomware attack on a medium-sized company can net the attacker a payout of up to $300,000.
Now that we have a better understanding of why cybercriminals engage in these actions and the value they place on our personal information, we must become more vigilant and protect ourselves against potential attacks. Our expert cyber security team is here to help you safeguard your personal information or secure your organization against these threats. Don't wait until it's too late, reach out to us today.