Cybersecurity is undoubtedly a big issue and is said to cost the UK economy several billion pounds per year. Indeed, a recent government report showed that 46% of all businesses identified at least one cyber attack in the last year, with 74% of directors regarding cyber security as a high priority issue for them.
Despite this level of priority, organizations struggle to attract the talent they need to keep up with the constant arms race they face with hackers and other cyber criminals.
Whilst many cyber attacks are conducted with criminal acts in mind, there are also attacks done with activism as the motivator. A recent study attempted to discover what it is that motivates so called ethical hackers or people that break into digital systems for moral, ethical, or social justice reasons.
It reveals that for most hacktivists, the payoff they might secure as a result of their attack is the main contributor, with the risks involved having much less impact on the likelihood of an attack taking place.
The researchers from Arizona State University used game theory to examine how participants weigh up the risks and benefits of trying to break into a computer system. The authors also hoped to construct a profile of a potential hacktivist.
“Hacktivism is becoming increasingly more prevalent as an inexpensive and easily accessible alternative to real world protests. The lack of variability by gender is important to note as we seek to develop a reliable profile of potential hacktivists,” the authors say.
Suffice it to say, the participants in the study were not hackers themselves, so a caveat has to be applied to the findings and doubt cast as to their applicability in the real world, but it nonetheless provides some interesting findings that warrant further exploration.