New hacker breed will steal your cash

Cape Town - A new breed of hacker is emerging: One that is focused on one goal - stealing your money.

While traditionally hackers were associated with vandalism, modern cyber criminals have the obvious intention of financial reward.

"Financial motivated crime can affect anybody with an internet connection. Attackers and victims can be anywhere in the world. The target or goal is: Data that can be monetised", Philip Pieterse, senior security consultant at Trustwave told Fin24.

Globally, the shift to hacking for profit has largely replaced pure vandalism, though the latter is often employed to make political statements.

"This trend is very much a global one, so although on the whole hacking for profit has seen a major increase worldwide, there are still individuals who will vandalise local sites to make political or social statements", said Drew van Vuuren, CEO of information security and privacy practice at 4Di Privaca.

Easy crime

This is clearly illustrated with hacker collective Anonymous attacking US financial institutions over their relationship with whistle-blower site WikiLeaks.

Locally, the Anonymous affiliate briefly shut down the IOL website in 2013 over an article on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

The focus on cash is a natural progression on Sutton's Law, named after prolific American bank robber Willie "Slick" Sutton who was asked why he robbed banks.

According to legend, he responded by saying: "Because that's where the money is."

Hackers have learnt that with targeted messages, it is a relatively lucrative and easy crime to use data to steal cash.

According to the FBI's Internet Crime Report of 2013, people in the 50 - 59 year-old age group laid over 53 000 complaints (21.1% of all complaints) on internet fraud and lost over $177m out of a total of $781m for the year.


Pieterse identified groups of cyber criminals.

"There are three groups of 'cybercriminals'. Firstly hacktivism: That's when someone goes after a specific company for example and try to cause brand damage to that specific company.

"Secondly: State or corporate sponsored espionage, where the goal is to steal state or corporate secrets.

"Lastly, and this is the space Trustwave is involved in, investigating breaches involving the theft of PII, IP, payment card info and others",  he said.

Experts generally advise that the best strategy to limit a potential cyber hack is to have multiple layers of security.

Despite that though, it is likely that a persistent and skilled cyber criminal will usually find a way in.

"There is an adage that states that everything is 'hackable', you just need to find the appropriate entry point", said Van Vuuren.

Much like fitting an alarm, immobiliser, gear lock, and even satellite tracking to your car to discourage theft, computer security can serve to send the criminal elsewhere.

"If the attack is financially motivated then, the attackers will probably rather go for easy wins, where they can gain as much data as quick as possible", Pieterse said.

Watch this video to see how you can protect yourself online:

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