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Threat Actors and Vectors

White, Black, and Grey-Hat Hackers

Hackers are categorized into ethical (white-hat), malicious (black-hat), and semi-ethical (gray-hat) depending on the actions they take.

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is simply a threat actor that has advanced capabilities and is difficult to dissuade.

APT’s are typically very sophisticated in attack approach, well funded, and persistent over a range of time. Some historical APT campaigns were conducted for months before the victim discovered its presence.

Human Error

Human error can refer to a threat actor that is accidental. When experiencing a security event caused by human error, it’s important to keep in mind that whatever access has been granted to the human making the error is the level of impact the error may cause. For example, a network administrator will have much more impact to an organization compared to a low-privilege user.

Script Kiddies

Script Kiddies are typically inexperienced threat actors who lack experience and knowledge of hacking and the tools used to hack. They are almost always external threats, with low sophistication and resource, and have minimal or no funding, Their goals can vary, but they usually operate opportunistically and don’t have a great deal of motivation.

Insider Threat

Insider Threats refer to threat actors operating from within an organization.

Insider Threat have elevated access and increased knowledge when compared to external threat actors. An insider threat could be an employee (current or former), consultant, business partner, etc. and could be intentional, unintentional, or malicious.

Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to assets that are part of an organization’s network, but aren’t set up or managed by IT, and that IT and Security personnel are not aware of.


Hacktivists are threat actors with an ideology, who strongly believe in a cause and are willing to break the law to further that cause. They are usually external threats, and can have a range of sophistication and resources.

Competitor & Corporate Espionage

Competitors and Corporate Espionage refer to threat actors which steal trade secrets or sabotage rivals in order to gain an unfair advantage

Organized Cybercrime

Organized Cybercrime: Threat actors that target money as a large, overarching goal. Cybercriminals usually represent an external threat, with a wide-range of sophistication, and the resources the groups have access to can vary.

Cyber Terrorists

Cyber Terrorists are threat actors that seek to use hacking to cause large-scale destruction and harm.

State Actors

State Actors are highly dangerous threat actors that have the support of a government. They are often highly sophisticated, and have large quantities of resources provided to them by their government, which allows them to employ skilled hackers

Threat Actor Behavior (TTP)

Threat actor behaviors are described as using their TTPs: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. Each term refers to a different level of detail about the threat actors behavior. Tactics are high-level descriptions of behavior, techniques describe more detailed behaviors within the context of tactics, and procedures are highly-detailed descriptions of actions a threat actor might do.

Attributes of Threat Actors

Attributes of threat actors include: internal vs external actors, level of sophistication and capability, resources and funding, and intent and motivation.

Term: Threat Actor

The term Threat Actor is used to describe an individual or group that poses a potential threat. Terms that may fall under the greater term of a threat actor are: “hacker”, “attacker”, “threat group”, “hacker group”, “adversary”, etc…

Threat Actor Attack Vectors

An attack vector is defined as the technique by which access can be gained to a device or a network by threat actors for nefarious purposes.

Threat actors may utilize a few different attack vectors. To name a few: direct access, wireless, email, supply chain, social media, removable media, or the cloud.

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