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What are Threats and Threat Actors?

An adversary or threat actor is the malicious person behind the machine:

  • Nation-state hackers – as opposed to a hacker operating in a foreign country, these actors are state-sponsored. Some of them are characterized as Advanced Persistent Threats.
  • Cyberterrorists – these can be state-sponsored as well, but are classified according to their targets, e.g. water, power, government infrastructure.
  • Legal hackers – generally law enforcement or other government agencies.
  • Script kiddies – this derogatory name refers to these actors’ use of pre-built tools or malware to attack targets, often without much knowledge of what they are doing. Some of them can be thrill seekers.
  • Hacktivists – these actors act against their targets for political or social reasons.
  • Suicide hackers – these actors are insiders at companies who may have been terminated or resigned, but want to cause damage to their targets.
  • White hats, black hats, and grey hats – these are more general terms regarding the reasons for the hacking:
    White hats are the “good guys,” usually working for a company that they operate in.
    Black hats are the “bad guys,” usually working for self-interest and destructive.
    Grey hats are those whom it is hard to classify in their operations.

The threat is the actual method or tool the attacker uses:

  • Phishing, spearphishing, vishing, whaling, smishing, watering hole – variations on social engineering tactics
  • Malware – these are only a few of the available malicious software:
    • Viruses
    • Trojans
    • Worms
    • Rootkits or other exploit kits
    • Spyware
    • Adware
  • Backdoors
  • Distributed Denial of Service
  • Ransomware
  • SQL injection, Cross-site Request Forgery – these are attacks on vulnerable websites.
  • Man-in-the-middle attack
  • DNS attack
  • Rogue access point
  • Zero-day exploit
  • Tailgating
  • Shoulder-surfing
  • Dumpster diving
Jonathan Berry
Jonathan Berry
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