Breaking Bad in Cyberspace: Understanding Why and How Black Hat Hackers Manage Their Nerves to Commit Their Virtual Crimes
Information Systems Frontiers (ISF), vol. 23 (April), pp. 329-341
29 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2019 Last revised: 12 Jul 2021
Date Written: April 30, 2021
What is happening in hacker’s minds when they are committing criminal activities? How black hat hackers manage nerves, which is about managing fear and underlying emotions, and which tactics they employ during their decision-making process before, during and after committing a crime, is the question that could provide some initial insights on hacker’s trajectories, their switch from black hat to white hat and ultimately about their behaviors and motivations. The main difficulty in answering this question resides with the access to hacker’s data. To address this gap, we conducted interviews with 16 black hat hackers. Supported by the general strain theory and routine activity theory, we identified five techniques that they use to manage their nerves: shunting, minimization, plan B, thrill, and lens widening techniques. Each of these techniques help hackers to better manage their nerves and consequently, learn how to better cope with the fear. During their psychological decision-making processes, hackers use these five techniques to create a new mindset, behind which they hide, with the objective of minimizing and mitigating the inherent risks they encounter during their criminal activities. The theoretical importance of nerve is the key to a better understanding of black hat hacker’s illegal acts, their behaviors and ultimately their actions.
Keywords: Black hat hacker; security; criminology nerve management; general strain theory; routine activity theory (RAT)
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