Survey: Average successful hack nets less than $15,000

The majority of cyber attackers are motivated by money, but make less than $15,000 per successful attack

The majority of cyber attackers are motivated by money, but make less than $15,000 per successful attack, according to a survey of hackers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany released yesterday by the Ponemon Institute.

The hackers, who were promised anonymity, netted, on average, less than $29,000 a year.

"In the more established countries, that is not a lot of money," said Scott Simkin, senior threat intelligence manager at Palo Alto Networks, which sponsored the study. "They're making a quarter of what a cybersecurity professional makes."

Hollywood may be promising them big payouts, he added, but the easy bucks just aren't there.

The average attacker conducts eight attacks per year, only 42 of which are successful. In addition, only 59 percent of the successful attacks result in any financial payout.

Attackers also spend an average of 70 hours per attack going up against "typical" IT security infrastructure, 147 hours battling "excellent" IT security infrastructure and give up completely after 209 hours.

Survey respondents also said that the time and resources it takes to conduct such an attack have decreased over time, and that automated tools make it easier for them to conduct successful attacks.

The majority of attackers have increased their use of hacker tools by 18 percent, and 64 percent say that the tools are "highly effective."

On average, attackers spend $1,367 a year on these tools.

Other reasons that the time spent to plan and execute an attack have decreased include the increased number of known exploits and vulnerabilities, cited by 67 percent of respondents, and, for 52 percent, improved skills as a hacker.

Scott Simkin, senior threat intelligence manager at Palo Alto Networks

Improved collaboration within the hacking community was only cited by 22 percent, and improved intelligence about targeted organizations was cited by 20 percent.

Of most interest to the defenders, the hackers prefer easy targets to harder ones, and will call off an attack if it is taking too long to get through.

According to the survey, 13 percent quit after a delay of five hours. A delay of 10 hours causes 24 percent to quit, a delay of 20 hours causes 36 to quit, and a majority of 60 percent will give up if an attack takes 40 additional hours.

"If you can delay them by two days, you can deter 60 percent of attacks," Simkin said. "Make it harder, make it take more time, and make it cost more money."

In general, when choosing targets, hackers will go after the least-defended companies first.

According to the survey, 72 percent said they won't waste time on an attack that doesn't hold the promise of quick and high-value information, and 69 percent will quit if they see that the target has a strong defense.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about CSOPalo Alto Networks

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Maria Korolov

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place