In the first part of our series on cybersecurity, we will cover the circumstances that make us a target of hacker attacks. In this text, the reader will be put in the place of the target and we will analyze why hackers would attack you, depending on their motive.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Meet Yane, target of hackers

We will call our hacking target Yane.

Yane is an office workers in a large company and one of the hundreds of employees there, but also one of the millions working such a job in companies. He has family and friends and is considered a modest and complacent person.

Yane has a computer that he bought 3 years ago and a smart TV purchased 5 years ago. He uses a smartphone and maybe a tablet. He uses electronic banking, shops one Internet and has active presence on at least two social networks. He shares many of his photographs, life events and opinions on the social networks.

Finally – put your name instead of Yane’s. Honestly, every one of us is Yane, every day.

Several motives, all with benefits for the hacker

The usual motive for a cyberattack (usually referred to as hacking) is financial gain, but it is not the only one. Some of the hackers are still motivated by the brag that they penetrated the system, while some hackers are motivated by political or ideological reasons.

Why is Yane a good target for money-making?

Due to the fact that the most frequent motive for hacking is financial gain, we will start with that, of course. Financially, Yane is not a very wealthy man and therefore he does not consider himself a possible target for a hacker attack.

It is important for us to be aware that hackers do not expect enormous riches from a single attack. They have no need for that because in the digital world they have access to millions of targets like Yane, from whom they can earn several hundreds of dollars. A few hundred dollars from thousands of hacked targets give you a nice fortune.

  • Yane uses electronic banking and owns credit cards that hackers can withdraw funds from or at least sell Yane’s data onthe credit cards and electronic banking to other criminals.
  • Yane’s personal data can be used to secure a fast loan with fake identity.
  • By stealing access to his social networks, Yane can be blackmailed. Most probably, Yane would pay some amount of money to retrieve his digital world, photographs and beautiful memories. Even if he does not want to pay, Yane’s identity on social networks can be used to attack his friends and contacts.
  • Similarly, Yane’s devices can be crypted after which Yane can be blackmailed or a virus can be spread to control his devices after which the access to those devices can be sold to other hacker groups.
  • Finally, Yane is employed in a large company and hacking his access in the company can be the first step for stealing the data of the company or blackmailing the company. Under the circumstances, Yane would be the only one accused because his identity would be reported as the source of the attack.

Why is Yane a good target for a politically motivated hacker attack?

The politically motivated attacks have a more visible effect and they are focused on visible targets. That however, does not eliminate Yane as a target.

  • Yane is employed in a large company and the hacking of his access to the company can be the basis for hacking or incapacitating the company for political or activist purposes.
  • Yane’s access to social networks can be abused for spreading propaganda or fake news to his contacts and friends who would trust the news since it comes from a person that they think they know.

Why is Yane a good target for a bragging hacker attack?

Finally, let’s look at the most benign option for a hacker attack – personal satisfaction of the hacker or his/her promotion for a successful attack.

  • Weak passwords or Yane’s insufficient awareness are enough to be abused for the hacker’s personal promotion.
  • Not updated software of the devices is a perfect opportunity to “win the trophy”.

And now what?

We saw in this text why each and everyone of us is a good target for a hacker attack. There is no such thing as “insignificant” person on this planet. Everyone of us has a specific quantity of valuable information, access to systems, technology or financial value that could be worthwhile to the hackers.

For the beginning, be aware that you yourself – just like Yane – are a valid target. The same way that we saw how Yane makes a good target, think about the reasons why you might be a good target.

In the next text we will discuss how hackers would try to attack you.

Author: Bozidar Spirovski, online security expert.

This text was produced as part of the project “Good Governance in Cybersecurity on the Westen Balkans”, implemented by DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, funded by Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the Government of the United Kingdom. The contents of the text is the sole responsibility of the author and the Metamorphosis Foundation and may not reflect the positions of DCAF and the donor.