Hacking the hackers: Borrowing good habits from bad actors

Cybercriminals are smart, quick, and relentless. If we want to outsmart them, it’s imperative that we pay attention to their behaviors and use these hacker skills more efficiently than the bad guys do every single day.

Hacking the hackers: Borrowing good habits from bad actors

In a digitized world where information is both a valuable asset and a potential target, malicious hackers are a constant threat – and often loom larger than life. It’s easy to think of cybercriminals as shadowy supervillains when, in reality, they’re merely highly motivated and unscrupulous people using the specialized tools at their disposal to work smarter, not harder. By combining tools and skills with the habits of a persistent attacker mindset, they can efficiently breach security systems, steal sensitive data, and disrupt critical infrastructures. 

Scaled up to global levels, that efficiency becomes a huge and costly global problem. It’s estimated that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world economy some $10.5 trillion a year – the most significant transfer of wealth in human history. Unless we can all find a way to build security that proactively keeps attackers at bay, threat actors will only escalate their efforts to wreak havoc for enterprises, government organizations, and even entire nations. 

But what if you could turn the tables on cyber adversaries by embracing some of their habits and building them into our own DevSecOps strategies? If we can understand how bad actors apply their skills and mindset to outsmart us, we can harness the most effective habits to outhack the hackers and protect our digital assets more effectively. Read our free eBook to learn how:

Good habits of bad actors that give them an edge

Malicious hackers operate in an environment where time and information are precious. Using as much intel as they can gather, they can set up attacks to exploit vulnerabilities swiftly and stealthily within a narrow window of opportunity. They often succeed because they’re relentless, motivated, and resourceful. They will use anything they need to get the job done, from dedicated tools and pre-packaged exploits on the dark web to their own skills and proven operating procedures. 

Here are a few hacker habits that can help the bad guys stay one step ahead – and that you can turn to your advantage:

  • They map out, monitor, and understand the entire target environment, including who has access to what systems and data within an organization, so they can better pinpoint their targets. Attackers also gather every scrap of public and non-public information about the targeted systems, people, and security tools. Armed with this intelligence, they can exploit security flaws to penetrate your systems and then escalate access to go deeper – and cause even more damage.
  • They share knowledge and tools to work smarter, not harder. Knowledge-sharing allows attackers to stay on the technical cutting edge and also serves as a way to train junior cybercrimes on historical knowledge about vulnerabilities, attack techniques, and approaches that have proven successful. Underground communities and marketplaces make it easier for malicious hackers to quickly develop and adapt tools and skills, helping them become experts in specific fields. 
  • They verify everything to ensure they have the best information. Outsmarting their victims is a top priority for bad actors, so they strive to question, verify, and improve all the information they have. That way, they know they’re always operating with the best possible intel and the most suitable tools to break or sidestep your existing defenses – a situation you could be oblivious to if you don’t have complete visibility of your attack exposure.

To counter these battle-tested attacker habits, we need to cultivate our own AppSec hacks. Proactively hacking the hackers by maximizing coverage, efficiency, and accuracy in a continuous process is vital to prevent the bad guys from finding weak spots before you do. It’s the only way to outpace the attackers and get your guard up before they can land the next punch. 

By anticipating their tactics, understanding their motives, and proactively implementing measures to thwart their advances, we can give ourselves a better chance of safeguarding sensitive data and the systems that process it – and make sure we’re the ones staying one step ahead in the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Read our new eBook, Good Habits of Bad Actors, for more hacker habits and AppSec practices that you can start using to your advantage right now.

Meaghan McBee

About the Author

Meaghan McBee - Senior Marketing Content Writer

Meaghan is a Senior Marketing Content Writer at Invicti with over a decade of experience creating written content in the tech industry. At Invicti, she leverages the voices of our subject matter experts and insights from industry research to deliver news, thought leadership, and product information to the masses.