Understanding motivations and characteristics of cybercriminals: Revisiting theoretical approaches through the lens of contemporary practitioner experiences


Cyber offences present a substantial threat to those attempting to safeguard data and information. By understanding the evolving characteristics and motivations of individuals involved in such activities, practitioners will be better placed to consider potential mitigations. The reported work explores the extent to which findings from prior academic literature regarding the characteristics and motivations of offenders engaging in cyber-dependent crime (e.g., hacking, malware creation and distribution, and online fraud) are supported by the contemporary experiences and perspectives of practitioners working in the cyber crime field using a targeted, online survey. Sixteen current practitioners working in law enforcement-related domains in the cyber crime field completed the survey. Findings demonstrated support for three characteristics previously highlighted in prior research (younger age, being male, and greater computer use) and multiple motivations, with financial gain and a feeling of power and status being the most common. Several nuances in characteristics and motivations were also identified in relation to the particular type of cybercrime engaged in, and how these various aspects appear to be evolving due to the increasing commercialization of ready-to-use toolkits, the growth of cyber-crime as a service, and the involvement of organized crime groups and others in malevolent cyber activity.