The average hacker may make less than a manager at McDonald's, but he or she works a whole lot less than your average fast food employee—or any other professional, for that matter.
The Ponemon Institute, a data protection and cybersecurity research center, surveyed 304 hackers working in the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States to gain a better understanding of the economics of hacking. The study determined that 69 percent of hackers are actively trying to make money, and for that financially-driven bunch, the average compensation is $28,744 per year. However, the results also demonstrate that the average hacker spends a paltry 705 hours on attacks each year—only a third as much as most professionals work.
Researchers determined that hackers conduct about eight attacks a year. Only 42 percent of those are successful, and 59 percent of the successful hacks actually pay off, with earnings averaging $14,711. Take that figure and subtract the cost of specialized hacking tools—$1,367—and one wouldn't even have enough cash to cover the yearly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco.
However, with an average hourly rate of $40.75, hackers could in theory rake in almost $85,000 if they clocked as many hours as the average working individual.
Presumably, a potent mixture of laziness and lack of opportunity is preventing hackers from making about three times as much as their current compensation. Most respondents said they would spend less than two days on a given attack, and that they wouldn't waste their time on an operation unless it turned up a trove of valuable information. In addition, the hackers surveyed said they would likely bail on an attack if their intended target had a strong cybersecurity system.
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: A detail of the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
The Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington, Friday, June 5, 2015. China-based hackers are suspected once again of breaking into U.S. government computer networks, and the entire federal workforce could be at risk this time. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that data from the Office of Personnel Management _ the human resources department for the federal government _ and the Interior Department had been compromised. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2015 file photo, the Anthem logo hangs at the health insurer's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. Insurers aren't required to encrypt consumers' data under a 1990s federal law that remains the foundation for health care privacy in the Internet age _ a striking omission in light of the cyberattack against Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The FBI has confirmed it is investigating a recent hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which caused major internal computer problems at the film studio last week. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
FILE - In this file photo made Oct. 6, 2009, employee John Abou Nasr pushes shopping carts in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Methuen, Mass. Home Depot's data breach could wind up being among the largest ever for a retailer, but that may not matter to its millions of customers. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Shoppers arrive at a Target store in Los Angeles on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Target says that about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Graphic shows details of recent notable data breaches by organization; 3c x 7 inches; 146 mm x 177 mm;