3 min read

Who carries out cyber attacks and why?

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In order to understand your business' cybersecurity risks, it is worth considering who the likely attackers are and what motivates them.

In this article we consider:
  • Why would someone be interested in attacking us?
  • Who would carry out a cyber attack on us?

Why would someone be interested in attacking us?

Indiscriminate cyber-attacks

If you are targeted in a cyber attack, it will feel like a personal attack. In my circumstances perpetrators of won’t know or care about you or your business. They will search for businesses with a low levels of cybersecurity, falling victim to automated attacks.

They use freely-available tools, which constantly scan the Internet looking for vulnerable data and under-protected computers, to attack vast swathes of internet users. Because they launch their attacks against so many people, they can be sure of finding a lot of victims.

Targeting small and medium sized businesses

By attacking a high number of smaller organisations rather than a few large entities, media and government attention is kept away from attackers, while still allowing high returns. And because small businesses are often in the supply-chain of large corporations, they can often be used as a means to compromise the networks of these larger companies.

Targeted attacks

Other cyber criminals may take a specific interest in your business, either for commercial or personal gain, or merely to cause disruption. We often see big brands being targeted, or businesses within specific supply chains. For example, specific firms are being targeted in the coronavirus vaccine supply chain and research by foreign nationals.

Who would carry out a cyber attack on us?

Who are the perpetrators?

There are five main groups of people who might be targeting your business. Read on to find out who they are and what they want from you.


Cyber-criminals are interested in making money through fraud or from the sale of valuable information. Since the rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are virtually untraceable, and with more people conducting financial business online, cyber-crime has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Small businesses are often the target of this crime because criminals might see them as soft targets with weak security controls.

Competitors and foreign intelligence services

Competitors and foreign intelligence services, interested in gaining an economic advantage for their companies or countries, will primarily seek to steal sensitive information or cause disruption. Small businesses in the supply chains of defence contractors or utility companies and could be targeted as they may hold information themselves, or be used as a route to attack their larger customer.


Hackers interfere with computer systems because they find it enjoyable. While this might seem fairly innocuous, it can cause business disruption and loss of reputation. Hackers will often deface websites, which is embarrassing and disruptive to the victim company.


Hacktivists who wish to attack companies for political or ideological motives will look to cause disruption to businesses they have a grievance against and may even target companies who trade with those businesses.


Employees or those who have legitimate access, can cause problems either by accidental or deliberate misuse. Those leaving for pastures new might look to take information with them, and staff might disclose information as a result of bribery or blackmail.

Every business is a potential victim

The key takeaway from this is that every business is a potential victim of a cyber-attack. You have no control over the capabilities or motivations of a cyber criminal, but you can make it harder by deploying cyber-security defences and being aware of the threat.


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