Study of global hackers and the economics of security research

Human ingenuity supported by actionable intelligence were found to be critical ingredients to maintaining a resilient infrastructure, Bugcrowd reveals. In fact, 78% of hackers indicated AI-powered cybersecurity solutions alone aren’t enough to outmaneuver cyber attacks over the next decade.

economics of security research

87% of hackers say that scanners cannot find as many critical or unknown assets as humans. While 2019 was a record year for data breaches, the report found that hackers prevented $8.9B of cybercrime in 2019 and earned 38% more than they did in the previous period.

In the next five years, hackers are projected to prevent more than $55 billion in cybercrime for organizations worldwide.

“Hackers will always be one step ahead of AI when it comes to cybersecurity because humans are not confined by the logical limitations of machine intelligence,” said Jasmin Landry, top-ranked Bugcrowd hacker.

“For example, hackers can adapt four to five low-impact bugs to exploit a single high-impact attack vector that AI would likely miss without the creative flexibility of human decision-making.

“Experience allows hackers to recognize vulnerable misconfigurations that represent a true risk to organizations without all of the false positives that typically come with AI-powered solutions.”

The next generation of hackers are younger and neurologically diverse

Hacking as a profession is lucrative and highly attractive to young people, with 53% of hackers under the age of 24.

Remarkably, the report uncovered that 13% of hackers are neurodiverse and possess neurological advantages that help them provide extraordinary depth and dimension in security testing. These unique strengths include exceptional memory skills, heightened perception, a precise eye for detail, and an enhanced understanding of systems.

6% of neurodiverse hackers experience Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and thrive in environments of rapid change, such as security research, where creativity and out-of-the-box thinking are rewarded generously.

Career hacking and the economics of security research

The research found that hackers live on six continents and reside in more than 100 countries worldwide. Most notably, the report identified an 83% growth in respondents living in India and 73% of hackers speak two or more languages.

“Having started my career as a hacker, I understand that cybersecurity is inherently a human problem. ‘The power of the crowd’ in crowdsourced cybersecurity is rooted in being able to look at the same thing as everyone else and see something else”, said Adrian Ludwig, CISO at Atlassian.

Social responsibility on the rise among businesses, hackers

A growing social responsibility trend among businesses and hackers was uncovered. 93% of hackers primarily hack out of care for the well-being of the organizations with which they work. Additionally, organizations made five-times the number of coordinated disclosures in the last twelve months.

“The exponential growth of these disclosures highlights the value of transparency to stakeholders and demonstrates organizations are taking social responsibility more seriously than ever,” said Casey Ellis, CTO of Bugcrowd.

COVID-19 increasing demand for career hackers

The FBI reported a 400% rise in cybercrime after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and organizations are investing more in bug bounty programs as a result. 61% of hackers have noticed an increase in available bug bounty programs to participate in due to widespread remote working conditions related to the COVID-19.

“We are in unprecedented territory – and COVID-19 has forced many businesses to accelerate digital transformation efforts,” said Ashish Gupta, CEO and president of Bugcrowd.

“The rush to digitize businesses can create serious lapses in security and organizations are turning to bug bounty programs to proactively safeguard new products and applications against vulnerabilities.”

Like the larger security industry, career hackers also noted concerns about COVID-related fraud. 48% of hackers believe the healthcare industry is the most vulnerable to cybercrime during the unfolding crisis, followed by education and community support (17%) and government and military (16%).

Additionally, as the government faces the potential impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming 2020 US Presidential election, 72% of hackers independently reported that they do not trust alternative polling methods, like electronic polling or mail-in ballots.

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Study of global hackers and the economics of security research