Vast majority of hackers believe they're above the law -- survey

A new survey looks at what makes hackers tick -- and for most, it's not money or glory.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read


When most hackers are infiltrating computer systems, the last thing on their mind is getting caught, according to new data. In fact, despite many highly publicized arrests, 86 percent of hackers believe they will never face repercussions.

Password protection software firm Thycotic published the results of a survey on Thursday that looks at what makes hackers tick. The firm interviewed 127 self-identified hackers during Black Hat 2014 earlier this month and came up with some surprising details.

For one, hackers' impulses don't appear to be financially motivated. More than half of those surveyed said their actions were driven by fun or thrill seeking, while only 18 percent were after money and 1 percent wanted notoriety.

Twenty-nine percent of the hackers interviewed identified themselves as hacktivists that were interested in exposing the truth. Just yesterday, a group of these types of hackers breached the St. Louis County Police computers to publish dispatch tapes detailing the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

With 86 percent of hackers thinking they won't get caught and 80 percent of hackers either launching attacks for the thrill of it or a desire to unveil the truth, Thycotic founder and CEO Jonathan Cogley believes many of these hackers don't believe what they're doing is wrong.

"They're probably thinking, 'I didn't do any damage and I didn't profit from it,'" Cogley told CNET. And, even if they do get caught they'd say, "'my intent was curiosity.'"

So, what types of tactics are these hackers using? According to Thycotic, they're continuing with tried and true methods, such as phishing and spoofing. In the survey, 99 percent of respondents said these tactics are still effective.

"It comes back to the basics, they're not looking for the next crazy zero-day attack," Cogley said. "So many of them are happy using attacks that were used 10 years ago."

Another conclusion from Thycotic's survey is that hackers appear to fear their own kind. According to the survey, 88 percent of respondents believe their own data is vulnerable to breaches or online theft from other hackers.

As the world has moved increasingly online over the past couple of decades, there has also been an uptick in hacks and breaches. Not only have hacktivists flooded the web with sensitive information from governments and corporations, but also major websites and retailers -- like Target and Neiman Marcus -- have been the victims of data breaches.