When you think about why hackers attack websites, you might think that there is a specific reason they attack you as a website owner – your business, your reputation, or your information. The truth is that while hackers may appear personal to the victim, they rarely single out specific targets. Most of the time, hackers do bulk searches for specific vulnerabilities and attack these websites together.
Before we look at the psychology behind website hacks, let’s first divide our hackers into groups based on their motivations.
Categories of hackers
Hackers can be divided into four different groups:
White hat hackers
A group of tech-savvy white hats try to find vulnerabilities without any malicious intent. These “hackers” can be anyone. What sets them apart from black hat hackers is that they usually have the target’s permission to hack, and their goal is to improve website security on the internet instead of taking advantage of it. White hat hackers use a variety of automation tools, processes, and knowledge to uncover vulnerabilities and, if necessary, proceed with the actual compromise. White hats can be hired by companies to test their cybersecurity strategy through a hack attempt.
Black hat hackers
Unlike White Hat, this group is fully intent on exploiting website vulnerabilities for malicious purposes. Personal gain is the be-all and end-all for these cybercriminals. Black hat hackers use the same technology but break into systems without permission. They are fiscal, not ethical, and try to write malware scripts that can help them benefit from as many goals as possible.
Gray hat hackers
Like white hat hackers, gray hat hackers have good intentions, but they also want some fame. These people ask for forgiveness rather than permission when it comes to accessing systems for vulnerabilities and generally expect money in return for their results. First, they discover the risks, and second, they inform those responsible of what they have found. They can withhold some of their results to motivate the company to pay. Technically, this is illegal. You must first get the website owner’s permission before you can access their system.
Those who hack targets because they believe they are proving something or revealing a subject to the world are called hacktivists. Its aim is to gain unauthorized access to websites in order to draw attention to political, religious or social issues. These actions vary in extremes — from Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and Domain Name Service (DNS) hijacking to mess with social change messages and mass emails. These attacks usually happen in waves with the aim of drawing attention to a topic. The targets can range from entire governments and industries to specific companies and individuals.
A script kiddie is a term used in the cybersecurity world to ridicule hackers who don’t write their own programs. These hackers are usually amateurs who are often assumed to be children or teenagers who do not know what they are doing. In reality, they could be any age. What they have in common is that they use existing programs, kits or scripts and their effects are generally not understood.
Not understanding the consequences of randomly starting scripts on an IP block makes them dangerous, but also easier to spot. Script kiddies are motivated by attention, reputation, curiosity and sometimes boredom.
What do hackers want?
Hackers are ready to take advantage of potential exploitation regardless of your type of business, who you serve, or how well your website is performing. The reasons for this vary depending on the hacker. Here are some examples of what motivates them:
You may think your business isn’t big enough to care about your traffic or authority. However, cyber criminals use the server resources of multiple websites to achieve the desired effect. As a result, your small website could become part of a big hack.
Some of these exploits are known as SEO spam / pharma hacks or phishing. We have to take into account that the destination might be another website under your hosting umbrella.
While some people think that hackers get paid to take advantage of your website, it’s a little more complicated. While the goal is getting rich, hacks often don’t result in instant cash gain. Hacks allow cyber criminals to extract information that can then be used or exploited to get rich. Let’s take a quick look at what information is valuable in today’s marketplace. Depending on your website, cyber attackers may be looking for:
- Credit card information, including CVV and billing address, to be used for online transactions.
- Contact information is later sold to unethical marketing lists.
- A website with decent rankings and enough traffic to support a fraudulent campaign or sell to a third party.
- Username and password logins to access and take over and attempt to server resources Password stuffing attacks.
- Sensitive or proprietary information, such as trade secrets, to be leaked, sold, or extorted.
- High security information that can compromise a facility’s premises
Attackers can use the hacked site to distribute Trojans. This affects website visitors and can potentially cause anything from fraud to a banking hack to identity theft. If you want to expand your knowledge on this subject, we have an article about the consequences of a data breach.
Hackers can build their reputation with defacement – by leaving their “signature” anywhere on a hacked target like web graffiti. Some hackers break into targets just to prove they can. They also show their craft by enforcing access and stealing valuable information. You can use the personally identifiable information (PII) in a blackmail plan or take critical information hostage in a blackmail plan.
Hackers may have a religious or political agenda and use their skills to deface targets. Defacing attacks by hacktivists have websites act as free billboards to get their message across. Hackers can also use bots to spam a website. For example, the Texas Heart Beat Law resulted in an anonymous tipping website that would reward people who report violations of the law with cash. A hacker under the pseudonym Sean Black went to TikTok to share an IoS link with his followers for a script he wrote that types a wrong tip every 5 seconds. Hacking a “Justice” site can produce different results, but at least it will raise awareness and public discourse around the issue.
What are the effects of a hack?
Recovering from a website hack will affect your time, money, customers, visitors, and information stored on you. Depending on the type of data that the website processes and the requirements associated with it, this can also have serious legal implications. Occasionally, the website may violate regulations or lose the certification required to operate by directly processing and storing certain types of data such as PII or credit card information.
It can take a long time to recover. It also increases your chances of getting infected again if precautions are not taken Protect your website. If you don’t have a data breach response plan, we recommend the Responding to a Data Breach: A Guide for Businesses.
What are the most common hacks?
Here is a list of common malware categories from our latest Hack website trend report.
Our blog contains the most common hacks and is updated regularly. We also publish new content every week to continuously create awareness in our industry. Our goal is to share as many best practices as possible with website owners.
Another helpful resource for website owners is our webinar on the topic the most common types of hacks.
Hackers won’t go away anytime soon. While their motivations are mostly monetary, they can also make a statement, build reputation, or improve their karma with a bit of white hated altruism.
It is the responsibility of the consumer to be aware of these threats. Use the resources available to keep your website secure. You can subscribe to our Blog feed Don’t miss any website security blog posts. If you want to protect your website from attacks and hacks, we offer one Website security platform with malware detection, protection and response to security problems.