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)
Katherine Archuleta, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), speaks during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the OPM data breach in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. U.S. senators said yesterday they doubt the government's personnel office understands the breadth of a computer hack that exposed the records of more than 4 million federal workers, or that the agency can stop another breach. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
SCHAUMBURG, IL - AUGUST 04: A statue of a horse stands at the entrance to a P.F. Chang's restaurant on August 4, 2014 in Schaumburg, Illinois. P.F. Chang's China Bistro Ltd. said today that the company experienced a data breach involving customers' credit and debit card information which affected 33 restaurants in 16 states, including the Schaumburg, Illinois location. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 15: Shaws on Congress Street on Friday, July 15, 2014. Shaws parent company is investigating a possible data breach. (Photo by Logan Werlinger/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
COLMA, CA - APRIL 18: Customers enter a Michaels art and crafts store on April 18, 2014 in Colma, California. Michaels, the largest arts and crafts chain in the U.S., announced that an estimated 2.6 million cards used at its stores across the country may have been affected by a security breach. Aaron Brothers, a subsidiary of Michaels, was also affected by the breach. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - FEBRUARY 28: A checkout keypad is seen at a Sears store on February 28, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida. According to reports the U.S. Secret Service is investigating a possible digital attack at Sears Holdings Corp. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A couple of shoppers leave a Target store on a rainy afternoon in Alhambra, California on December19, 2013, as the US retail giant said some 40 million customers may have had bank card data compromised by hackers who broke into its database as holiday shopping got underway. Target said there had been 'unauthorized access' to its payment system in US stores affecting credit and debit cards with approximately 40 million credit and debit cards possibly affected by the breach between November 27 and December 15, the company said in a statement. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)