Computer Hackers

A computer hacker is someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system security or computer network. Hackers may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, protest, or technical challenge. The subculture that has evolved around hackers is often referred to as the cybercrime underground and is now a known community1. More and more, computer hackers, or cybercriminals, are orchestrating targeted attacks. While some computer hackers are interested in killing as many birds as they can with one stone, others think like snipers and are determined to take down one profitable target with the most advanced precision as quickly as possible.

Over the last number of years there has been a noticeable rise in the number of reported targeted attacks. Targeted attacks are harder to detect than widespread attacks. The tools may be identical but the motivation of the attackers and their chosen targets set the attacks apart. The difference between targeted and widespread attacks is:

  • A Remote Access Tool that infects users across 50 countries would be a widespread attack
  • The same attack technique used against two nuclear power plants but against no one else is a targeted attack.

Profit has proven to be a more than sufficient motivation for hackers to constantly innovate in terms of attacking security technology. They research, explore, and develop malicious programs with a level of professionalism not seen in previous years. These malware are continuously improved, whether to become more resilient to antivirus solutions or to become more effective in terms of their intended payload.

It used to be that hackers needed to manually check computers for weaknesses or open ports in order to attack targeted machines. Once in, hackers manually executed their intended actions, depending on their intention. Today, various tools like vulnerability and port scanners are widely available on the Internet. Backdoor applications can remotely manipulate compromised systems and worms automated the proliferation of malware through self-replication. Even generating malicious files can be automated with the help of malicious toolkits. This not only means that hackers are becoming more sophisticated; it also means the need for even more sophisticated antivirus is increasing2.