What Motivates a Cybercriminal?


If you review 2020 from the perspective of cybercriminals, it was a great year. The pandemic gave them more opportunities and ways of perpetuating their attacks, and the global loss from cybercrime reached a record of $1 trillion. 

Day after day, we read about a new business falling victim to cybercrime. Most of them don’t think they will be part of the statistics, but the truth is that no one is safe. Criminals have far too many reasons to keep improving their attacks and targeting more and more organizations. 

But, is money what motivates cybercriminals? 

4 Things That Motivate Cybercriminals 

The short answer is yes, there is a lot of money involved in cybercrimes, but this is not the only motivation behind an attack. It can be influenced by other factors that also determine how, when and who a hacker targets.  

1- Money 

According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 86% of data breaches are motivated by financial interests. But how exactly does a hacker earn money? There are many different ways a hacker can monetize an attack. They can do it by stealing money directly from your account or encouraging others to send money using false information, or impersonating someone you trust. They can ask for ransom, and they can even sell sensitive information such as social security numbers business data.  

The industries most affected by hackers looking to increase their earnings are accommodations, food services, healthcare, financial and insurance, manufacturing, and retail. But small businesses and even individual users are also at high risk. 

2- Politics 

We have seen this far too many times over the past year: attacks towards towns´ water supply and electrical systems or U.S. cities getting hit with ransomware attacks. Hackers are taking advantage of their skills to spread a message through public administrations, make statements, protest, and even take retaliatory actions by either disrupting or damaging their operations or obtaining sensitive information (espionage).  

3- Growth 

Hackers often break into computers and gain access to an organization’s system to demonstrate to black hat organizations what they can do. It is a practice that gives them status among others and can help them get hired or sponsored by criminal organizations or even by large corporations that want someone with those skills among their staff.  

4- Grudge 

Just as we mentioned in the political drive, hackers sometimes act by a grudge. They interrupt a business operation just because they had a bad experience with their products/services or disagree with an organization’s way of thinking or acting. 

As you can see from the above description, hackers are motivated first by financial interests, second by espionage or gaining sensitive information, and third by personal interests. Understanding the motivations behind a cybercriminal can help you understand what assets your organization has that might be of interest, why the hackers want to access them, and how you can protect them.