Growth of ‘hackers for hire’ will lead to more attacks and unpredictable threats, UK cyber security agency warns | UK News

The number of “hackers for hire” is set to grow over the next five years, leading to more cyber attacks and increasingly unpredictable threats, the UK’s cyber security agency has warned.

A rise in spyware is also anticipated and other hacking tools, according to a new report by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is a part of GCHQ.

“Over the next five years, the proliferation of cyber tools and services will have a profound impact on the threat landscape, as more state and non-state actors obtain capabilities and intelligence not previously available to them,” Jonathon Ellison, director of resilience and future tech said, in comments released on Wednesday.

“Our new assessment highlights that the threat will not only become greater but also less predictable as more hackers for hire are tasked with going after a wider range of targets and off-the-shelf products and exploits lower the barrier to entry for all.     

“To maintain safety in cyberspace it is crucial these capabilities are managed with a responsible, proportionate and legally sound approach and working with international partners, the UK is determined to address this rising challenge.” 

The report was published to coincide with CyberUK, an annual cyber security conference hosted by the NCSC. The two-day conference is taking place this year in Belfast.

The cyber agency warned that demand for hackers was expected to expand.

In addition, a proliferation of hostile cyber capabilities has already enabled more states, gangs and individuals to develop the ability to hack and spy online.

The report said that how over the past decade more than 80 countries have purchased cyber intrusion software, with “some states almost certainly having irresponsibly used this to target journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents and opponents and foreign government officials”.

According to the NCSC report, a “growing hackers-for-hire marketplace increases the risk of unpredictable targeting or unintentional escalation”.

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Over the past decade, the UK’s cyber experts have seen cyber intrusion grow into an industry offering increasing numbers of products and services to global customers.

This includes off-the-shelf capability, which the report described as “Hacking-as-a-Service” as well as bespoke hacking services, which it dubbed “Hackers-for-Hire”.

It said the sophistication of these commercial products is as effective as some of the tools developed by nation-states.

The use of this kind of spyware against individuals “is almost certainly happening at scale, with thousands of people targeted every year”, the report warned.

It added: “Hackers for hire pose a potential corporate espionage threat to organisations or individuals across multiple sectors, and potentially significant financial rewards may incentivise state employees or contractors to become hackers for hire.”