There are a lot of hackers about, many in groups or collectives. Some of them are after the details of private individuals, some target sensitive government information, some do it to avenge social injustices and some do it just because they can.

Most hackers strike at the worst possible time for their victims and they undoubtedly have beyond expert knowledge of computers and technology.

But who are the greatest (if that’s the right word to use) hackers around at the moment?

Here are a few of those who are known about:

 

Bureau 121

This is a North Korean group said to be about 1,800 strong and who are spread all over the world, mostly due to North Korean technology being inferior. Many of their attacks are against South Korean interests including banks, TV companies and even the president. It is alleged that an attack on Sony which cost them $15 million was carried out by a splinter group of Bureau 121 although they never took responsibility for it.

 

Chaos Computer Club

This German group try to stay on the inside of the law, having consulted legal experts to ensure they do so. Their most famous hack was stealing 134,000 Deutschmarks – which they later returned – from Deutsche Bundespost to highlight security flaws in their system.

 

Morpho

Sometimes known as Wild Neutron, Morpho have carried out some extremely high profile hacks. These include Facebook, Twitter and the supposedly unhackable Microsoft and Apple. Little is known about them and it is suspected they are a very small, tight knit group.

 

Syrian Electronic Army

It’s mostly prank-based stuff from this group, believed to be from Iran, although they did cause the Dow Jones to drop severely after hacking Associated Press’ Twitter account and tweeting that Barack Obama had been injured in a White House explosion. They also hacked the BBC’s Twitter feed and tweeted that a weather station in Saudi Arabia had been damaged by a camel.

 

Anonymous

The most famous of all hacker groups. Anonymous fight for social justice and expose those who do wrong. They are believed to be the largest hacking collective in the world and despite their prevalence nobody really knows much about them, suggesting the name is working. They are recognisable due to the Guy Fawkes masks members wear at protests.

 

Ajax

Not to be confused with the Dutch football team, this Iranian hacking outfit once attempted to gain US military secrets with a series of phishing attacks. They are said to be in the employ of the Iranian government and all of their attacks are outward facing.

 

Dragonfly

This Russian group are also said to work for the state. Some of their most malicious attacks include taking down electric grids and embedding viruses in legitimate software used by major corporations.

 

APT28

APT28 is another Russian collective and they are also allegedly in the employ of the state. This is backed up by the fact that every single one of their targets has been of interest to the Russian government, including Georgian and Polish government websites and NATO.

 

Elderwood Group

This isn’t just one group of hackers, but rather it’s name for a great number of Chinese hacking collectives, all of whom are once again alleged to work for the government. They have attacked various militaries, governments and aerospace companies along with acquiring sensitive US government data and even hacking Google.

 

Tailored Access Operations

This operation only came to light when former NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked information about this branch of the NSA. They have the capability to tap mobile phones remotely or appear on the internet as anyone they choose. The main concern is the fact that a government agency also allegedly has so much personal data about private individuals, who they can monitor at any time. This might be the most sinister of all hacking groups, making a mockery of the term, Land of the Free.

 

These are just the groups we know about, but right now a teenager with an interest in computers somewhere in the world is probably sitting in their bedroom taking the first tentative steps towards becoming a hacker and who knows what they might do once they’ve got a little bit of experience?