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Hackers vary in skill and motivation. Some are just a nuisance, while others ruthlessly target individuals, businesses and even entire nations. To defend yourself against today’s cybersecurity threats, start by understanding the five main types of hackers.

The Top 5 Hacker Types

Script Kiddies

Script KiddiesThese pranksters don’t know much, but with common hacking tools, they’re capable of vandalizing websites. Script Kiddies are basically showoffs, and the damage they do tends to be minimal.

Targets: Social media accounts and the websites of local schools and businesses

Goals: Impressing their friends

Techniques: Social engineering, guessing at passwords or using widely available hacking tools

Resources: With very little money or skill, these hackers can’t achieve much more than annoyance


HacktivistsThese hackers serve protest organizations seeking publicity for their grievances. They tend to be highly skilled, but they lack the resources needed for sustained or serious attacks.

Targets: Websites of governments, large corporations or other organizations accused of injustice

Goals: To publicly embarrass their targets by disrupting their operations

Techniques: Advanced website hacking and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks

Resources: Hacktivists are generally rich in skill, but poor in time and money

Cyber Criminals

Cyber CriminalsThese hackers represent the most common direct threat to the ordinary computer user. They often have day jobs in IT, and are thus skilled enough to pull off ambitious scams.

Targets: Websites and networks of retailers and financial institutions

Goals: Cash, accessed through credit card and bank accounts

Techniques: Advanced site hacking, credential attacks, phishing scams, ransomware and zero-day attacks

Resources: These highly skilled criminals are prepared to invest time and money in amounts commensurate with their
expected paydays

Organized Crime

Organized CrimeCriminal groups target individuals and organizations in search of cash and sensitive financial information that can later be sold. They work for large payouts, and are willing to invest accordingly.

Targets: Internal networks of governments, corporations or any other entity with large amounts of cash or valuable data

Goals: Large amounts of cash or data, secured as discreetly as possible

Techniques: Zero-day and complex chain attacks; bribery, extortion and fraud

Resources: These are sophisticated full-time professionals; time and money are no object

Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced Persistent ThreatsHere, governments employ expert teams to target other nations’ economies and critical infrastructure. These teams can number in the hundreds, and they are backed by unlimited resources.

Targets: Internal networks of corporations or governments

Goals: Valuable data that can be sold or leveraged for geopolitical advantage

Techniques: Zero-day and complex chain attacks; bribery, extortion and fraud

Resources: Since their goals are long-term and political, nation states will patiently invest whatever resources are

Hackers may be growing in sophistication, but so are the tools and techniques for thwarting them. Learn more by enrolling in our most popular
cybersecurity courses:


Cyberattacks don’t come from machines. They come from people. That’s why your data security depends on an educated workforce. Our cybersecurity curriculum gives your people the crucial knowledge and skills they need in topics around policy, business process and technology. And that is because our curriculum reflects the uncompromising standards of the world’s foremost technology providers, experts and enterprises. Organizations worldwide trust Global Knowledge for unique insights and skills in data protection. You should, too.

To view our complete cybersecurity curriculum, click here.