First, let’s dispel the myth of hackers sitting on a couch or slamming espresso shots in a 24-hour café. At some point in the past, there may have been enough one-off hackers to comprise some measurable percentage of cyber threats. But those days are over. Hacking is big business. And these businesses are operating inside and outside of the US. They are looking at standard big-business issues like supply and demand, market competition, and industry trends. And yes, there will always be independent hackers. But the real threat now comes in the form of highly organized teams with strategic initiatives.
Ransoms are an increasingly popular tool for the black hat players. In some ways, the transactions are quick and easy. The ransom amounts are fairly easy to calculate: the cost of data recovery (hiring a tech specialist) plus the cost of recovering brand image. In short, your standard ransom demand isn’t going be less than $25,000 (or so) going forward. And that’s just the floor. Plus a good black hat hacker will make sure he gets paid on both sides of the equation – wear the mask during the ransom and the white hat during the repair.
While breaching big companies is always a splashy way to make headlines (think: Yahoo, Target, and Yahoo again), the big companies have vast financial resources to stay ahead of the hacking curve. Thus the future of hacking is in the mid-level company. The perfect target: on-line grocery retail and delivery. They have enough money to pay big ransoms, but they aren’t invested enough in the tech industry to keep on top of client login and payment data.
The truly sophisticated hackers can’t be bothered with PII anymore. They want to play the markets. And by sneaking in the back door of major corporations, they can gain access to the kinds of corporate intelligence that an inside trader can only dream about. And not only can they play the market, they can manipulate the markets by releasing information to the media strategically.
The face of cyber security changes daily. The players are in every corner of the world, rolling the dice in a game against each other, major corporations, and every government on the planet.