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What Motivates Hackers?

Hackers have made cyber security one of the most important issues in the information technology field.

By the end of 2025, there will likely be more than 75 billion devices connected to the internet.* And every single one of them will be vulnerable to hackers. In terms of personal records alone, in 2019 formjacking attacks skyrocketed, with an average of 4,800 websites compromised each month.2 Given how many other forms of cyber attack there are and the fact that many attacks go unnoticed, it’s impossible to accurately measure the threat posed by hackers. What is certain is that hackers are now a major concern for the information technology community. But just as there are different types of cyber attacks, there are different types of hackers. And every type of hacker has their own motivation for doing what they do. Here are the most common reasons for hacking.


You hear about it regularly: Hackers have infiltrated some company’s database of credit card and/or social security information. Such information is a common target of hackers because it can be used to generate duplicate credit cards or steal the identities of thousands of victims. Once an identity is stolen, the thief can open up credit accounts in the victim’s name and ring up thousands of dollars in charges. In 2014, identity theft cost the U.S. $15.4 billion.3

What Motivates Hackers?


Espionage is another type of theft except, instead of direct financial gain, the hackers desire protected information. Both governments and private organizations can be victims of information theft, and the information stolen can be either sold or used by adversaries to gain tactical advantages. Generally speaking, those who hack into governments are seeking state secrets while those who hack into private organizations are seeking trade secrets. Hackers work for most major governments and are an important part of spycraft. In 2015 alone, the U.S. government identified 77,000 cyber-related intrusions on its systems.4


Spamming isn’t just about filling your inbox with unwanted e-mails. Certain types of malware can take over your web browser’s systems and overwhelm you with unwanted ads. Spammers also work to steal passwords so they can use your e-mail account or social media accounts to spam others in an attempt to sell products.


Do you have full control of your internet-enabled devices? A common trick of hackers is to use a Trojan virus or other means to take over part or all of another system. Once they do, they can turn that system into a so-called bot that they can use to power spamming operations or DDoS attacks (see below). Hackers can also take full control of a system for the purposes of espionage or sabotage. In fact, the FBI has warned that even internet-connected cars can be hacked and taken over.5


The word “hacktivist” has come to mean those who use hacking to support a political objective or movement. Some hacktivists seek to find and release information that will expose corruption and malfeasance. Others take over corporate or government websites or social media accounts in an act of protest, while others “voice” their protest by using distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to slow down or shut down a target’s internet activity. A DDoS attack uses multiple machines (many of which are often controlled by a Trojan virus) to bombard a system and overwhelm it to the point of malfunction.

Vulnerability Testing

One of the best ways to test your own system is to have it hacked. Cyber security firms, government agencies, and a number of large businesses employ hackers to test their systems, locate vulnerabilities, and develop protections.


Plenty of hackers will tell you that breaking into a secure system is an enjoyable test of their wits and skills. And for some, that sense of adventure is their only motivation. They hack because they like to and have no intent to do anything more than gain some experience and have some fun.

How Can You Learn More About Hacking?

With the rapid expansion of the internet and connected devices, the world needs information technology experts who can keep up with changes and help protect important systems from malicious hackers. If you would like to become just such an expert, you should strongly consider enrolling in an MS in Cybersecurity or Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) degree program. These programs can help you acquire the advanced skills you need to secure a rewarding future in one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation.6

What’s the best way to earn an advanced degree in cyber security or information technology? For many, the answer is: through an online university dedicated to promoting privacy education. Walden, an accredited university, has been designated a Champion of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, co-founded and led by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the DHS. Celebrated each October, Walden joins a growing global effort among businesses, government agencies, colleges and universities, associations, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to promote the awareness of online safety and privacy.7

With the right online university, you can find the flexibility you need to earn the right advanced degree for you. In fact, you can earn your master’s in cyber security or Doctor of Information Technology degree while remaining at your current job and in your current town. These advantages make online education a great choice for anyone looking to advance their knowledge of hackers while continuing to work in the information technology field.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering MS in Cybersecurity and Doctor of Information Technology degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,