Picking the Cyber Criminal Mind
“Creative Commons Silver handcuffs on a black wall” by Sanda, used under CC BY / Desaturated from original
A friend of mine asked me: “Is it scary to have a criminal mind?” In order to answer this question, I have to define what the criminal mind is, and because the discussion of such mind in general would involve many factors let’s focus on cyber criminals.
There are categories of cyber criminals based on different scenarios.
There are the terrorists, which I consider to be the worst. I am not referring to hackers here. I am referring to people or groups which coerce, manipulate or employ hackers to get funding for terrorist attacks worldwide. They just need the ability or skill those people have and they use them as tools. Hackers working for those groups, even if they were originally tricked into this, soon realize they are trapped and get miserable with time. Sure, there are some of them who are part of the group and are enjoying it but most of them are programmed to do so, not knowing the harm they cause with their actions. Even if they do find out about the consequences of their actions, there is not much they can do when their life is threatened if they try to escape this way of living.
- Con men:
There is the category of con men who just make a profit by causing damage to individuals. They consider this a service to survive economically. Even though they do not have money ethics, i.e caring to make their money in an honest way they might or might not accept certain jobs of a non-ethical nature.
Then we have the fascinators. This category gets so high from their ability to break into things and play God in other people lives. It’s just like aphrodisiac to them. Funny enough, their goal is not to harm people. Reality is that they simply do not realize at all the implications of their actions, as they take it as a game. The virtual environment they operate in doesn’t allow them to see the real implications of their actions.
There are also the experimenters. They break things by mistake because their brain is wired to explore and identify. This category either makes excellent white hat hackers or leads to fascinators. You see, there is a scale of deepness in attacks. They all start from experimenters if not forced to learn how to perform cyber-attacks. Then they become either white hat or black hat (there are, in fact, other colors of hats but let’s leave that for another article), and fascinators is the first stage of black hat hackers. Then a percentage of them scale up to con men and from there a new world of manipulating the best of them or altering their ethics at a deeper level starts until they get into the terrorism stage.
Whether they are script kiddies or skilled sophisticated hackers with amazing abilities there is only one thing that defines their path and it is ethics. Their inner drive will determine their actions and their path.
You might think I forgot a category, the so-called hacktivists. They fall into any of the aforementioned types of criminals. Hacktivists are driven by an idea but behind that idea people can hide with both good and bad intentions. The terminology itself is to represent fighters who are trying to shine a light into a corrupted area when nothing else works and correct things. However, there is always a possibility for some of them to become terrorists who are doing it with a hidden agenda. All kinds of people can hide behind a cause. In fact, it is something very common as a practice. I am not here to discuss this scenario though, at this point. I just want to define the criminal mind in the cyber world.
The criminal mind for me is the mind that does not have any ethics. When I say ethics, I am not referring to beliefs. Ethics is a much a deeper mechanism inside us that is a trait of the soul, not of our physical body, so do not confuse the cause of killing for a God for an ethical thing because the terrorists believe they are doing good. No. I am talking about the pure good permeating each action we take and decision we make: does it affect people around us in a positive or negative way? As you understand, to me, it is all about how we decide to use our skills and our talents – to assist others or to hurt them.
Being able to think as an attacker in order to get into a system does not make you a criminal. It makes you skillful. It is the way you choose to use this ability that makes you either a protector or a criminal. So, personally I always check with my ethics compass whether I should do something or not. And trust me, there are all sorts of requests that can come your way when you have the ability to compromise systems. Accepting or denying them, is a choice of your soul and how dirty you want to get. I believe it was best said by Oprah Winfrey in a speech she was giving to Harvard graduates in 2013. She said, “the key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional G.P.S. that can tell you which way to go”.
Getting back to the original question, it’s not possible to know how criminals think because I would never want to become one. However, if you ask about my ability to think what they could do to compromise your security, yes, that I can do.
Being able to think like an attacker regarding what can go wrong or what can be taken advantage of doesn’t make you a criminal. It makes you an analytical and intelligent person. What makes someone a criminal is the choice of how to use this ability.
If you want to know more on what make you and your business vulnerable read my article “Why are you so predictable?”