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Understanding the Social Forces Affecting Cyberattackers

Know Your Enemies

Thomas Holt

This training explains the behavioral and attitudinal factors that shape the actions of cyberattackers on and off-line. Most people focus on the detection and mitigation of attacks, ignoring why the attacker chose a certain target and method. As a result, any defensive strategies will never truly be as effective and miss potential targets because we don’t realize what is of value to the attacker. This training will help you understand the differences in attackers on the basis of their skills and motives, how attackers develop over time, and the ways that attacker behaviors are changing with the rise of cybercrime-as-service markets. Such information is vital to improve your knowledge of not only who is attempting to compromise your network, but why and what they might do if successful.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • What are the primary motives for hacking, and how they differ by region
  • Understand how markets for hacking tools and data operate and shape attacker capabilities
  • Recognize the differences between attacker practices based on motivation
  • Better identify the potential targets within your network and how they may be targeted based on the interests of external and internal attackers

This training course is for you because...

  • You want to learn to think like an attacker, so you can develop better defenses.
  • You are a beginner or advanced learner, who wants to better understand attackers.
  • You are in any role ranging from developer, to SOC operator, to a C-level professional.


Recommended Preparation

Recommended Follow-up

About your instructor

  • Dr. Thomas J. Holt is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. His research focuses on cybercrime, cyberterror, and the policy response to these threats. The majority of Dr. Holt’s research examines hacking, data theft, and malware from a social perspective, identifying the underlying factors that influence attacker behavior and increase victims’ risk of compromise. He has published over 50 articles in peer reviewed publications, as well as multiple books and edited volumes. Additionally, Dr. Holt has presented his research at various conferences around the globe, including Defcon and the Dutch ONE conference.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Segment 1 Understanding Cyberattacker Cultures and Motivations to Hack (50mins)

  • Common motivations of hackers and attackers
  • Expressive and instrumental motivation
  • How attacker motivation shapes behavior during an attack
  • What is a subculture and what it means to belong to a subculture
  • What does the hacker subculture look like?
  • Q&A: 5 mins
  • Break: 5 mins

Segment 2 Cybercrime Markets and the Hacker Subculture (50mins)

  • Cybercrimes as service markets, and how they function
  • How hacker subculture shapes the norms and practices of cybercrime as service markets
  • Q&A: 5 mins