How Do Hackers Earn Money?

Cyber AttacksHow much do companies lose from a typical cyber attack? A look back at the past two years provides figures. Sony Pictures Entertainment, for one, lost about $100 million to a hack that wiped 100 terabytes of data from Sony’s servers. American health insurer Anthem also lost nearly the same amount, in an attack that exposed the personal information of over 80 million people.

Hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s hard to imagine that tinkering with computer code can manage to fleece that much money. It’s something that IT consultants like those at Keyspace fully understand. But then, how exactly do hackers make money?

Sneaky Transactions

Hackers rarely get paid in person. It’s in the nature of their “jobs.” There are two types of hackers: white hat and black hat folks. The former often works with governments trying to capture cyber criminals. The latter, on the other hand, are the “bad guys” that either sell stolen data or trade them for far more tangible goods.

Think of hackers as freelancers. The only difference is that they don’t always pay their taxes. Here’s how some “earn” their keep: stolen credit card numbers can fetch for a mint on the dark web. In there, it’s like a garage sale where financial credentials are sold like blocks. Hackers are like legitimate businessmen in that part of the internet.

Easy As Brushing Your Teeth

This is what an anonymous hacker told cyber security expert Robert Hansen in an interview. According to the hacker, it’s easy to make as much as $300,000 in a year using a network of “zombie computers.” They call this scheme botnet, which floods target networks with tonnes of data. Affected businesses have their servers shut down as a result, and they receive threats of servers being kept offline unless they pay up.

Botnets are rented. They also keep hackers’ identities in almost complete secrecy. It’s almost impossible to trace cyber criminals if they use botnets. In other words, hackers can choose to be extortionists. Or, they can simply sell what they’ve fleeced for nearly as much money.