Exploiting the digital frontier: hacker typology and motivation

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University of Alabama Libraries

The current study combined the hacker taxonomies presented by Loper (2000), Parker (1998), Rege-Patwardhan (2009), and Rogers (1999; 2006; personal communication) and proposed a simplified taxonomy which included: script kiddie, cyberpunk, password cracker, internal, and old guard hacker categories. Each category was identified by its characteristic computer deviant behaviors and analyzed against sex and seven motivational factors (i.e., addiction, curiosity, excitement/entertainment, money, power/status/ego, peer recognition, ideological, and revenge). The study had two specific aims: (1) to explore which motivations were associated with each specific computer deviant behavior, and (2) to determine if more males than females are engaging in computer deviant behavior. The study targeted computer deviants from specific websites, which discussed or promoted computer deviant behavior (e.g., hacking). Using a snowball sampling method, 120 subjects completed an anonymous, self-report questionnaire that included items measuring computer deviance, motivational factors, and demographics. Relationships were identified using zero-order correlation, then a backwards (Wald) binary logistic regression was conducted to determine the predictive ability of motivational factors on the different categories of computer deviancy. None of the computer deviant behavior specific hypotheses were fully supported. The expectation that more males would be computer deviants than females was not fully supported since males were more likely to be script kiddies, cyberpunks, and old guard hackers compared to females. The findings suggested that these computer deviant behaviors overlapped in both motivational factors and the behaviors themselves. The study found that script kiddie, password cracker, and old guard hacker behaviors were all only motivated by addiction. Cyberpunk behavior was found to be motivated by financial, peer recognition, and revenge motivations, and internal computer deviant behavior was found to be related to financial and peer recognition motivations. Overall, the current study suggested that there was significant motivational and behavioral overlap between computer deviant categories, and not all computer deviants were predominately male. The author concluded that using a strict computer hacker taxonomy may not accurately reflect the true nature of computer deviant behavior.

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