Types of Cyber Threat Actors and Their Motivations

cyber threat actors in dark room

Types of Cyber Threat Actors and Their Motivations

For those in business wanting to gain a greater understanding of cyber security terms and methods, it can be quite confusing with all the various names flying around. Often the word hacker is used interchangeably although there are actually many different types of cyber threat actors, and they all have different motives. It is important for businesses to be able to identify these types of criminals in order to prevent attacks before they take hold.

What are cyber threat actors or bad actors?

So, what exactly are cyber threat actors? Bad actors in cybersecurity are individuals, groups or states who intend to gain illegal access to private data, applications, devices, and networks, through the use of malicious activity. Cyber threat actors can range from amateur individuals seeking a thrill, all the way to sophisticated state-sponsored actors who wish to spy on other governments. Cyber threat actors will have varying levels of resources and experience, and often motives.

Types of cyber threat actors

State-Sponsored Actors

State-sponsored attacks are usually the most sophisticated and targeted, with criminals having dedicated tools and the most advanced software available. They have the funds, the time, and the knowledge to complete the most high-value attacks out there. State-sponsored actors are often employed just for the purpose of completing a cyber attack and will have numerous resources and dedicated time to research and carry out an advanced attack. They are funded by their nations to spy on foreign agencies, steal sensitive information or other intellectual properties.

The motivations behind these attacks, which are usually on large organisations or government agencies, is to gain insights that will benefit their nation.

cyber threat actors at work


Cybercriminals are a type of cyber threat actor who will use tactics such as ransomware, phishing attacks or malicious software to steal sensitive information, financial records, person credentials, bank account details and more. These attackers are usually motivated by financial gain and businesses data will often be found on the dark web or sold on to a third party. These types of cybercriminals will have a good amount of knowledge and can cause severe damage to businesses.

Script Kiddies

Script Kiddies refers to individuals who are novices to hacking and are still learning the basics. These amateur hackers will often make multiple attack attempts, using a variety of methods, while experimenting in the field. This could make them a hazardous threat as they will typically continue their actions until they are successful. Theses type of bad actors are usually out for the thrill and for the challenge of breaking into networks illegally.


Hacktivists are motivated by using their findings ‘for good’. Their aim is to hack into government agencies or businesses and expose or draw public awareness to things they believe the organisation is doing wrong or covering up. Well known hacktivist groups like WikiLeaks will leak classified documents, private company information, sensitive data, and government information. Their motivation is ideological and to expose ‘the truth’, secrets or awareness to the public.

Insider Actors

Insider actors are usually either current or past employees that can use their authorised access to gain company information. They can also be contractors or other third parties that have access to your workplace networks. These bad actors have the access to the networks, devices, and applications, which makes it easier for them to find incriminating information or to inject malware into online systems. Their motivations are usually derived from discontent, revenge, or financial gain.

Cyber Terrorists

Cyber terrorists can target a whole range of businesses and will do so by causing disruption and harm. These types of attacks are on the rise and will generally harass and stop businesses running efficiently. They want to cause destruction to organisations to bring awareness to their cause, for recruitment purposes, propaganda, financial gain or for political reasons.

hands typing on keyboard

What can your company do?

Knowing the types of cyber threat actors and understanding their motivations can help in identifying cyber incidents and how to deal with them efficiently. By knowing who is most likely to be a cyber threat to your business, you can identify the type of information they may be after. Then you will be able to find any weakness in these areas of your organisation and fix any security issues.

It is important to encrypt your company data, so even if a cyber threat actor is able to gain access, the data will be unreadable. You also need to be protecting data as it is sent over the internet, something which is becoming commonplace. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will encrypt files and hide IP addresses, making remote working much safter.

Limiting access to company data can also be an effective way of reducing the risk of insider threats. Only those employees who absolutely need to have access to sensitive data in order for them to do their jobs, should be authorised. Also, the fewer accounts that have access to private company information will reduce the information a hacker will gain if they are able to compromise an employee’s account.

If you found this article insightful, then please share along to anyone you may think will benefit. If you are interested in cyber security for your business, then we at Cube Cyber have a wealth of experience and personalised services for your business.

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