Does hacking pay?

How much does the average hacker earn, and what do they spend their illicit gains on? According to a new study, not a whole lot, but the ones who do earn a lot live like Tony Montana.

Last year a report from Palo Alto and the Ponemon Institute found the annual salary of a hacker is just $28,744, well below the average pay for a tech worker (the majority of whom usually feel underpaid anyway).

A new study from cybersecurity firm Recorded Future detailed the profile of an average cybercriminal and how cybercrime gangs are structured. It found the average wage for a hacker is between $1,000 and $3,000 a month - largely in line with Palo Alto's findings - and found that many are professionals with no criminals records or ties to traditional organized crime, and usually have steady day jobs with the occasional hacking job on the side.

Organized cybercrime gangs, however, operate with a strict hierarchy, featuring highly skilled members often set with a very narrow set of responsibilities. A single boss runs the organisations - often having a network of contacts that allow them to launder money and avoid the attention of law enforcement.

"Cyber-criminal syndicates don't regard themselves as ordinary street criminals and rarely cross paths with everyday gangsters," said report author Andrei Barysevich, "preferring to remain in the shadows and avoid unnecessary attention from both law enforcement and local mafia branches."

The report details an almost Mafia-like structure, including legitimate business fronts for their operations:

"Team members tend to have strong ties in real life and often are respected members of their communities, viewed by many as successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. The group will often have a diversified investment portfolio and maintain a presence in real estate, hospitality, and auto-related businesses."

Recorded Future found around 20% of criminals earn more than $20,000, with Barysevich saying that some were earning up to $200,000 a month of "pure profit."

"This is what they can spend on loose women, fast cars, and nice clothes."


Also read:
InfoShot: Hacking doesn't pay
InfoShot: Tech companies rule high-paying US companies
InfoShot: Tech CEO pay vs. workers


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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