Forewarned is Forearmed: Confronting Adversaries in Cyberspace

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The risk of attack or theft from cyber-enabled actors has been made extremely clear to both private businesses and governments. The last few years have demonstrated that any connected device – be it a computer, a phone, or even a car – can be hacked by someone. Often the response focuses on the victim or the potential victim. The questions are usually about what can be done to protect yourself from the attackers. But this overlooks an important question: who, exactly, are these attackers? They are hackers, certainly, but what motivates them, and how do they decide who to target? Broadly speaking, cyber-attackers can be broken-up into three categories – hacktivists, nation-states, and criminals.

Hacktivist groups, like Anonymous, are primarily motivated by a political or social agenda. They pursue their agenda by targeting perceived adversaries and attacking them to the best of their ability. Fortunately, most hacktivist groups are not especially technically sophisticated. They often utilize Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to overload networks or deface websites in a way that is embarrassing, but not particularly harmful.

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