The Motivations of a Hacker

Author: Laurence Glen  |  Date published: September, 04, 2023, UK  |  Read est: 6 min read

Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group
Focus Group

Cyber-attacks are on the rise. Every year sees more and more companies infiltrated by new hacking schemes, costing them valuable time and money. Already in 2023, cyber-attacks are having a real impact on big British brands. With the number of incidents rising at an alarming rate, it is crucial for organisations to understand the motivations of a hacker in order to develop effective strategies to protect themselves against attacks.

In this article, we explore the common types of cyber-attacks, examine prominent examples from recent years, and delve into the impact they had on the targeted companies. Even more importantly, we will give you some valuable insights on how to keep yourself safe from online threats.

Motives for hacking

Understanding hacker motivations is key to comprehending the depth of their actions and the damage they can cause. Let's explore some common motivations and examine real-world examples to shed light on their implications.


Financial gain serves as a primary motivator for many hackers. By exploiting vulnerabilities in a company's systems, hackers can access sensitive information such as credit card details, personal data, and trade secrets. This information can be sold on the dark web or used as blackmail to demand ransoms, resulting in significant financial losses, as well as potential future losses from a tarnished reputation.

One prominent example is the Equifax data breach in 2017. Hackers infiltrated the credit reporting agency's network and gained access to personal information of around 147 million individuals. The breach cost Equifax over $1.4 billion in settlements, legal fees, and remediation efforts.


For some hackers, the thrill of overcoming security measures and infiltrating systems serves as a primary motivation. These individuals often target high-profile organisations, considering their successful breach a personal triumph. The consequences of such attacks can be severe, compromising customer trust and damaging brand reputation.

An example of this is the 2014 cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The breach not only exposed sensitive employee data and internal communications but also resulted in the leak of unreleased films and damaging email exchanges. Sony Pictures faced extensive reputational damage as well as significant financial losses as a result.


Hacktivism refers to hacking activities conducted to promote a social or political cause. Hacktivists target companies they perceive as unethical, often looking to expose secrets from within an organisation. The impact of hacktivist attacks extends beyond financial losses, often causing significant disruption and embarrassment for their targets.

In 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) experienced a significant cyber-attack. Hacktivist group "Fancy Bear" breached the DNC's network and leaked sensitive emails and documents. The attack had far-reaching consequences, including political fallout, public scrutiny, and the compromise of campaign strategies.


Instances of hackers seeking revenge on individuals or organisations they feel wronged by are not uncommon. These attacks can be highly targeted and seek to inflict damage by exposing confidential information, disrupting operations, or compromising systems.

One notable example is the 2014 cyber-attack on Ashley Madison, a dating website for married individuals seeking extramarital affairs. Hackers known as "The Impact Team" breached the site's security and exposed the personal information of millions of users. This act of revenge had severe repercussions for the affected individuals, including damaged relationships, reputational harm, and even cases of extortion.


Some hackers engage in subversive activities, aiming to undermine political systems, national security, or international relations. State-sponsored attacks fall into this category, as they leverage sophisticated techniques to gain access to classified information or disrupt critical infrastructure.

The 2017 NotPetya cyber-attack provides a clear example of subversive hacking. This malware, widely attributed to a state actor, targeted Ukrainian infrastructure but spread globally, affecting a huge number of organisations. NotPetya caused billions of dollars in damages, disrupted global shipping and logistics, and, importantly, highlighted the vulnerability of critical systems.


A small subset of hackers seek recognition, aiming to establish a reputation within the hacking community or gain notoriety in the media. Their actions may involve defacing websites, spreading propaganda, or executing high-profile attacks to garner attention.

A small subset of hackers seek recognition, aiming to establish a reputation within the hacking community or gain notoriety in the media. Their actions may involve defacing websites, spreading propaganda, or executing high-profile attacks to garner attention.

How to Avoid Hackers

While understanding hacker motivations is crucial, it is equally important to implement robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard your company. Here are some key steps to consider:

Invest in robust cyber security

To protect against cyber-attacks, it is essential to invest in comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. Implementing a multi-layered approach that includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and advanced threat intelligence can significantly enhance your organisation's resilience against ever-changing threats. New methods of protection are always being developed, so it’s imperative that you stay aware of the future of cybersecurity.

Train your staff

Human error remains a leading cause of successful cyber-attacks. Educating and training your employees on cybersecurity best practices, such as recognising phishing emails, creating strong passwords, and reporting suspicious activities, is vital in fortifying your defences. Regular security training sessions and awareness programs can help cultivate a security-conscious culture.

Staying aware of new hacking schemes

Cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, and staying informed about emerging hacking techniques is crucial. Regularly monitor industry news, collaborate with cybersecurity experts, and engage in information sharing within your professional networks. By remaining proactive and adaptive, you can better protect your organisation against new and emerging threats.

Let’s connect. Let’s protect

Understanding hacker motivations is the first step in protecting yourself from cyber-attacks, however if you want to be completely safe, then investing in the right security for your company is paramount.

Focus Group uses a comprehensive approach that includes strong defences, employee education, and vigilance to significantly reduce the risk of your company falling victim to hackers. To find out more about how we can create a customised cyber-security package for your business, contact us today.

Laurence Glen photo

Laurence Glen
IT Director

Our IT world, together with the ongoing development of this business-critical portfolio of services, is in very capable hands with Laurence at the helm. IBM-trained and with a 22-year track record of proven success in the IT sector ensures Laurence is perfectly placed to lead the overall IT strategy for Focus Group, ensuring we’re at the forefront of product development and service innovations in order to deliver the best possible IT technologies for our customers.

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