What are hackers’ illicit incentives for attacking websites, devices, networks, and databases? Let’s explore why do hackers hack!

It is pretty obvious that hackers hack to gain monetary benefits. However, there are less obvious, but sinister, reasons lurking below the surface. After all, why would hackers take the risk of hacking in spite of strict cybersecurity laws and severe punitive provisions in most countries? There are well-trained cybersecurity personnel, and the latest security tools available in the industry, too, which make hacking even more difficult and time-consuming. What could a hacker be after when they attack a blog or personal website that doesn’t have any financial or other sensitive details at all? Why would they target governments, schools, medical facilities? In this article, we have listed ten prominent reasons behind hacking activities. So, without any further delay, let’s find out why do people hack!

1. Ransom Demands

In some cases, an attacker cripples a website, then demands payment (usually in Bitcoin) in exchange for stopping or reversing the attack. If the website contains sensitive information (such as customer payment details or passwords), the hackers may also threaten to publicize that data to ruin the business’s reputation if the website owner doesn’t pay the ransom.

Sometimes, attackers encrypt (lock) the important files, folders, and databases with cryptographical keys or change the extension of files essential to a website. Now, the website owner can’t access them and the hacker may ask for a ransom to unlock the files or rechange the file extensions. They also hack the IoT devices like computers, laptops, mobiles, internet-connected phone systems, medical devices (like MRI machines, CT scanners), etc., shut them down remotely with malware, and ask for money in exchange to turn them on. This “ransom” type of hacking not only targets business, but individuals as well.

2. Send Spam and Phishing Emails

Sending spam and phishing emails is more complex than you may think. If a cybercriminal sets up a server for sending spam automatically to a large number of victims, reputable email service providers will detect and block it within minutes. That’s why hackers hack reputed companies’ servers to send spam emails. Since emails are coming from trusted servers, it takes time for email software and/or users to detect anything suspicious. A website owner targeted by a hacker might not even be aware that their servers are sending phishing/spam emails until their website and business email accounts get blacklisted.

3. Get Money from Revenue-Per-Click (RPC) Advertising

Online advertisers pay money to websites and apps on the basis of the number of views and clicks on the ads. Scammers make websites and enroll them in revenue-per-click (RPC) and revenue per thousand impressions (RPM) schemes. Now, instead of attracting visitors by publishing interesting stuff and doing SEO, hackers use the illegitimate route to get more traffic on their website. They hack genuine websites and insert scripts that automatically redirect website visitors to the hackers’ own sites. They also install malware, known as adware, in victims’ devices that keep showing them unwanted advertisements or automatically redirect them to hackers’ sites as soon as they connect with the internet or open a browser.

4. To Sell Data on Darknet

Some hackers don’t use stolen data for themselves, but they sell it to other hackers. There are special online marketplaces, known as darknet or dark market, for such data trading. Some of the infamous dark markets are Torrez, Tor2Door, Hydra, and White House Market. These platforms use cryptocurrency for transactions to prevent fund tracking, providing a factor of anonymity to buyers and sellers. Want to know how much do hackers make by selling data? Take a quick look at how much each data record is worth in the darknet.

stolen credentials on darkweb statistica report Source: Statista

5. For Executing Black Hat SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the art and science of getting your website to rank higher on Google. One of the very important factors in Google’s ranking system is the backlink. The more platforms link to your website, the more trustworthy you are in Google’s eyes. Search engines view a backlink as a sign of value and consider it an important factor to rank their search engine results. Some unscrupulous marketers get links by hacking other websites and inserting links to their own websites.

6. Build a Botnet

Some nefarious acts like DDoS attacks, advanced brute force attacks, illegal crypto mining, fake website traffic generation, etc., require a large number of devices to participate simultaneously. It is obvious that attackers can’t buy thousands of computers themselves, so they hack other devices for this purpose. They make botnet, i.e., robot network, by adding some scripts in the hacked devices. Now, these devices follow the hackers’ commands (like robots) from a remote place and work accordingly. Most of the time, the hacked devices’ owners don’t even get a clue that their devices are used for cybercrimes until it’s too late.

7. Government Espionage

Some cyberattacks and hacking activities are state-sponsored. That means government itself hires hackers to steal other countries’ confidential classified data, military information, and research data. A few countries are infamous for launching cyberattacks to cripple down their enemy countries’ online infrastructure and websites to cause operational disruptions. Some countries espionage other nations’ political secrets and publicize them (especially at the time of elections) to create political unrest. At times, the government hires hackers to hack their own citizens’ communication channels to solve crimes or detect terrorist activities.

8. To Gain Fame

Some hackers just like the feeling of power and accomplishment they get from defacing 100s or 1000s of websites. They want to gain popularity and build an aura of fear around their names so that people take them seriously. For example, most of the people in the cybersecurity industry are familiar with names like Shiny Hunters, Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Lizard Squad, Lazarus Group, Anonymous, and Tarh Andishan. Below is an example of how hackers insert their names on a hacked website to gain popularity.

how hackers changed your website name

9. To Take Revenge

Some hackers don’t care about money or fame. They are just vengeful and want to take revenge on a person, company, group, community, or even government. They hack their nemesis’ device, website, or online account and publish confidential data, leak sensitive personal media files, send phishing emails from their ID, post inappropriate stuff from enemies’ social media profiles, make fake purchases, etc. A hackers’ goal here is to make their nemesis suffer financial or reputational loss by defaming them.

10. For Noble Purposes

Not all hackers are bad. Some hackers’ motivation behind hacking is to find the security vulnerabilities and fix them before the bad actors exploit them. These types of hackers are known as white hat hackers or ethical hackers. Big companies and governments hire them as security researchers, penetration testers, or security analysts. Their job is to deploy cyberattacks on the system without harming anything, just to find the security loopholes and patch them. They use the same tools, and technics as bad guys (black hat hackers) do. But they penetrate the system with the owner’s knowledge and permission. Ethical hackers are also involved in developing security software that detects and removes malware. In short, white hat hackers strengthen the security posture of your defense mechanism with the goal of mitigating the security risks.

A Final Word – Why Do People Hack

When you read a headline about hackers breaching large companies, it’s pretty obvious what the hacker wants from their digital heist–they’re usually stealing money or valuable data (such as tax information or customer payment details). It’s the digital equivalent of robbing a bank—it’s high risk, but if you succeed, you can get a big return. Many people are surprised and don’t understand hacker motivation when they hear news about hackers targeting small businesses, government institutes, medical facilities, and individuals. We hope our article has helped you to understand why hackers hack and the major hacking motivations. In any case, stay vigilant and keep your business’s security posture robust to mitigate the cyber risks.

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