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

See all articles by Mario Silic

Mario Silic

Swiss School of Business and Management (SSBM); University of St. Gallen - Institute of Information Management

Paul Benjamin Lowry

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University - Pamplin College of Business

Date Written: April 30, 2021

Abstract

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)

Suggested Citation

Silic, Mario and Lowry, Paul Benjamin, Breaking Bad in Cyberspace: Understanding Why and How Black Hat Hackers Manage Their Nerves to Commit Their Virtual Crimes (April 30, 2021). Information Systems Frontiers (ISF), vol. 23 (April), pp. 329-341, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3447651

Mario Silic

Swiss School of Business and Management (SSBM) ( email )

Avenue des Morgines 12
Geneva, 10000
Switzerland
9000 (Fax)

University of St. Gallen - Institute of Information Management ( email )

Langgasse 1
St. Gallen, 9008
Switzerland

Paul Benjamin Lowry (Contact Author)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University - Pamplin College of Business ( email )

1016 Pamplin Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

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