Why Hackers Hack: Motives Behind Cyberattacks
Why Hackers Hack: The Motives Behind Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks caused $450 billion of damage to the global economy in 2016, and this number is predicted to keep rising as we keep adding more connected devices to the mix.
The magnitude of this impact should not be understated. It’s bigger than the size of notable economies like the UAE ($371B) or Norway ($370B) – which is why it’s no surprise to see organizations putting major resources to shore up their internal defenses and to reduce the risk of threats.
But while the origins of this cybersecurity boom may be clear, what is less obvious is why all of this hacking is happening in the first place.
Why do hackers hack, and what are the motives behind these powerful cyberattacks?
Why Hackers Hack
Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it breaks down the statistics from a couple of large global studies on cybersecurity.
One of the first datasets shown comes from Radware, showing the motives behind why hackers hack:
- Ransom (41%)
- Insider threat (27%)
- Political reasons (26%)
- Competition (26%)
- Cyberwar (24%)
- Angry user (20%)
- Motive unknown (11%)
Interestingly, ransom is a top motive at 41% – but other reasons like politics, competition, and cyberwar were pretty evenly distributed in the mix as well.
Verizon, in their 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, break down the motives of hackers in a different way. Using the three wider categories of “Financial”, “Espionage” and “Fun, Ideology, or Grudge (FIG)”, here is how cyberattacks look over time:
Most notably, espionage appears to be on the rise.
That’s significant, because over 50% of hacks already come from organized criminal groups, and close to 20% originate from state-affiliated actors. With espionage becoming a more common motive, it suggests that cyberattacks will continue getting more sophisticated and deliberate, and that specialized teams of hackers are executing a growing percentage of the attacks.
(For a real-time view of this espionage in action, make sure to watch cyberwarfare happening in real-time.)
Who and Why?
Hackers hack for a multitude of different reasons.
However, it does seem that the actors and motives for hacking are gradually shifting over time. Fewer cyberattacks today have FIG motives (fun, ideology, grudge), and more attacks are increasingly tied to espionage.
With more deliberate, determined, sophisticated, and team-based attackers – it’s no wonder that the cybersecurity industry is growing at a 9.5% annual clip.
Timeline: The Shocking Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank
Silicon Valley Bank was shuttered by regulators becoming the largest bank to fail since the height of the Financial Crisis. What happened?
Timeline: The Shocking Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank
Just days ago, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was still viewed as a highly-respected player in the tech space, counting thousands of U.S. venture capital-backed startups as its customers.
But fast forward to the end of last week, and SVB was shuttered by regulators after a panic-induced bank run.
So, how exactly did this happen? We dig in below.
Road to a Bank Run
SVB and its customers generally thrived during the low interest rate era, but as rates rose, SVB found itself more exposed to risk than a typical bank. Even so, at the end of 2022, the bank’s balance sheet showed no cause for alarm.
As well, the bank was viewed positively in a number of places. Most Wall Street analyst ratings were overwhelmingly positive on the bank’s stock, and Forbes had just added the bank to its Financial All-Stars list.
Outward signs of trouble emerged on Wednesday, March 8th, when SVB surprised investors with news that the bank needed to raise more than $2 billion to shore up its balance sheet.
The reaction from prominent venture capitalists was not positive, with Coatue Management, Union Square Ventures, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund moving to limit exposure to the 40-year-old bank. The influence of these firms is believed to have added fuel to the fire, and a bank run ensued.
Also influencing decision making was the fact that SVB had the highest percentage of uninsured domestic deposits of all big banks. These totaled nearly $152 billion, or about 97% of all deposits.
By the end of the day, customers had tried to withdraw $42 billion in deposits.
What Triggered the SVB Collapse?
While the collapse of SVB took place over the course of 44 hours, its roots trace back to the early pandemic years.
In 2021, U.S. venture capital-backed companies raised a record $330 billion—double the amount seen in 2020. At the time, interest rates were at rock-bottom levels to help buoy the economy.
Matt Levine sums up the situation well: “When interest rates are low everywhere, a dollar in 20 years is about as good as a dollar today, so a startup whose business model is “we will lose money for a decade building artificial intelligence, and then rake in lots of money in the far future” sounds pretty good. When interest rates are higher, a dollar today is better than a dollar tomorrow, so investors want cash flows. When interest rates were low for a long time, and suddenly become high, all the money that was rushing to your customers is suddenly cut off.”
|Year||U.S. Venture Capital Activity||Annual % Change|
Why is this important? During this time, SVB received billions of dollars from these venture-backed clients. In one year alone, their deposits increased 100%. They took these funds and invested them in longer-term bonds. As a result, this created a dangerous trap as the company expected rates would remain low.
During this time, SVB invested in bonds at the top of the market. As interest rates rose higher and bond prices declined, SVB started taking major losses on their long-term bond holdings.
Losses Fueling a Liquidity Crunch
When SVB reported its fourth quarter results in early 2023, Moody’s Investor Service, a credit rating agency took notice. In early March, it said that SVB was at high risk for a downgrade due to its significant unrealized losses.
In response, SVB looked to sell $2 billion of its investments at a loss to help boost liquidity for its struggling balance sheet. Soon, more hedge funds and venture investors realized SVB could be on thin ice. Depositors withdrew funds in droves, spurring a liquidity squeeze and prompting California regulators and the FDIC to step in and shut down the bank.
What Happens Now?
While much of SVB’s activity was focused on the tech sector, the bank’s shocking collapse has rattled a financial sector that is already on edge.
The four biggest U.S. banks lost a combined $52 billion the day before the SVB collapse. On Friday, other banking stocks saw double-digit drops, including Signature Bank (-23%), First Republic (-15%), and Silvergate Capital (-11%).
|Name||Stock Price Change, March 10 2023||Unrealized Losses / Tangible Equity|
|First Republic Bank||-15%||-29%|
|Fifth Third Bancorp||-4%||-38%|
|Bank of America||-1%||-54%|
Source: Morningstar Direct. *Represents March 9 data, trading halted on March 10.
When the dust settles, it’s hard to predict the ripple effects that will emerge from this dramatic event. For investors, the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen announced confidence in the banking system remaining resilient, noting that regulators have the proper tools in response to the issue.
But others have seen trouble brewing as far back as 2020 (or earlier) when commercial banking assets were skyrocketing and banks were buying bonds when rates were low.
The whole sector is in crisis, and the banks and investors that support these assets are going to have to figure out what to do.-Christopher Whalen, The Institutional Risk Analyst
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