As security professionals, us read articles all the time around the many recent breaches, and the forensic investigations and also arrests that follow. It is rare the that biggest of breaches walk unsolved yet they deserve to take years to prosecute based on extradition laws and whether a nation state to be involved. Throughout the course of these events, we learn about incidents, breaches and whether it was a risk actor, hacker or even attacker that resulted in the malicious activity.

You are watching: The term unauthorized access is a synonym for hacking.

The concern is... What is the difference? don’t they all mean the exact same thing? The truth of the issue is that they don"t, and also many time they space used erroneously in report a breach or cybersecurity incident.

Threat Actor, Hacker, Attacker – What's the Difference?

Let’s take a look at the common definitions for each of our personas.

Why is there a Distinction?

A risk actor – contrasted to a hacker or attacker – does no necessarily have any type of technical ability sets. They room a human being or organization with malicious intent and also a mission to weaken an organization’s protection or data. This could be anything native physical destruction to simply copying sensitive information. That is a vast term and also is intentionally used because it can apply to external and insider threats, including missions prefer hacktivism.

Hackers and also attackers space technical personas or organizations intentionally targeting modern technology to create incident and hopefully (for them, no you) a breach. They deserve to be solo individuals, groups, or even country states v goals and also missions everywhere in the people looking come destabilize a business, government, to disseminate information, or because that financial gains.

The difference between an attacker and also hacker is ethereal however. Hackers traditionally use vulnerabilities and exploits come conduct their activities. Attackers deserve to use any way to cause havoc. Because that example, one attacker may be a disgruntled insider the deletes sensitive papers or disrupts the organization by any means to achieve their goals. A hacker might do the exact same thing yet they use vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and also exploits to compromise a source outside of their acceptable roles and privileges.

Does the distinction Matter?

Yes! The difference in between the three is so important. options are designed come protect against all three species of malicious users:

A mix of every solutions not only avoids outsider attacks, but limits privileges come assets and users, in order to inhibiting the lateral activity of actors, hackers and also attackers if they manage to somehow acquire unapproved access to your environment.

The following time you watch an post on a breach or incident, think around the offending persona and how they conducted their nefarious activity. can assist defend versus all three personas. For more information, consisting of a personalized demo, call us today.

Morey J. Haber,Chief protection Officer at

Morey J. Haber is the Chief protection Officer at The has much more than 25 years of IT market experience and has authored three books: Privileged attack Vectors, Asset strike Vectors, and Identity attack Vectors. he is a founding member the the industry team Transparency in Cyber, and also in 2020 was chosen to the Identity defined Security Alliance (IDSA) executive, management Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees security and also governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for an international periodicals and also media. He initially joined in 2012 as a component of the eEye Digital defense acquisition whereby he served as a Product Owner and also Solutions Engineer since 2004. Before eEye, he to be Beta advance Manager for computer system Associates, Inc. He started his career together Reliability and also Maintainability engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. The earned a Bachelor the Science degree in electric Engineering indigenous the State college of brand-new York in ~ Stony Brook.

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