Hackers once were lone wolves or groups of university students who caused digital mischief mainly to show off their computer prowess. They emerged in force in the 1980s, with the spread of the personal computer and the rise of programing as a profession, and relied on physical storage media, such as floppy disks. The adoption of the internet changed all that.
High-profile legal cases, meanwhile, drew the public's attention to the issue of hacking, and fears over misuse of newfangled technology were reflected in the popular culture. Think 1980s classics like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Tron and War Games. Associated laws also started to emerge.
Since then, the motivation behind your average hacker has changed. Today it is mainly about making money, and not simply making a name for oneself by amending school records or breaking into government systems for fun. A key target of these profit-motivated computer experts – and the criminal organizations that sometimes hire them – is the financial services sector, which has high digitalization rates.
Both developed and developing countries are at risk, and security breaches this year in Chile and Mexico have thrust the issue into the limelight, sharpening the focus of policymakers, regulators and the private sector on cybersecurity.
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