How Do Hackers Make Money?

Hackers are among the most desired types of jobs in this world. They make a large part of their income through hacking or, at least, not in a legal way. Hackers are often considered criminals by society and some hackers indeed steal money from bank accounts using their skills but there are many ways that they can earn without resorting to stealing.

Hackers make money either illegally or legally. Illegal hacking makes money by stealing peoples’ credentials and either profiting from them directly or selling them to third parties. Legal hackers can profit by becoming cybersecurity experts or participating in bug bounty programs.

Hacking can be used to do something for good. Some hackers make a living out of it, but not many people know how they make money legally.

How do hackers make money legally?

1) Information Security training courses – These courses are conducted across the globe where students get trained about information security and ethical hacking in detail. Students can even take certification tests after completing the course.

2) Penetration Testing – Most organizations are worried about the security of their computer systems. Hackers can assess the situation and help fix these problems by pinpointing what needs to be done, giving actionable advice to remove flaws.

3) Hacking as a Service (HaaS) – This is something new that hackers are using to earn money legally. A hacker will strike a deal with an entity where the latter pays for information found by the former to build its business.

4) Bug Bounty Programs – This is another way that hackers make money legally. Web developers offer rewards for finding vulnerabilities in their websites, which help take steps towards reducing risks.

5) Researching – Hackers can earn money by researching topics like privacy, anonymity, network security and more. These researches may be used by law enforcement agencies to nab criminals or may even be published in international magazines for fame.

6) Writing books – Some hackers are good writers as well. They do write about their experience, opinions and knowledge and sell them to publishers.

7) YouTube videos and tutorials – People from around the world look up to hackers as their idols. They make a living by teaching people about hacking techniques on YouTube and in live seminars. This is also another way that hackers make money legally.

8) Being an ethical hacker – If you have enough skills in this profession then you can become an ethical hacker yourself. As people will want someone who knows about security very well to protect them from attacks, you may even get hired as a consultant by some businesses. You can start your own consulting company or find clients through websites like freelance.

Making Money with Ethical Hacking

The role of ethical hacking has increased recently with threat levels increasing every second. Organizations and software companies are hiring ethical hackers to keep their information safe.

These days, there is a long list of organizations that pay for the services of the best and most talented white hat hacking specialists. These companies include Apple Inc., Facebook, Google, Microsoft Corporation, Twitter Inc., Yahoo Software, and others.

An interesting fact is that few universities also offer courses on certifications in information where students can graduate with an honours degree in Computer Science.

These days, almost all universities and colleges require a course on information security. Most of them are now offering courses in ethical hacking as well – due to the increase in demand among students for the post-graduation programs related to information security. You may also consider taking up certification programs like CEH Certified Ethical Hacker (

You may start your own computer hacking business if you can do a proper analysis of the market trends that need to be followed. You can also earn money legally by working in different companies as a security specialist but only if you are good at the job and have enough experience in this field.

In short, there is no dearth of opportunities for hackers who want to make a living out of hacking or ethical hacking. In fact, with the growing threats and risks that people face while surfing on the internet, securing their computer systems has become essential which means that more work will be coming your way.

It’s now up to you how you use your skills and expertise whether for fame or fortune, essentially any choice is good because it would increase your chances of getting hired.

How do hackers make money illegally?

Every hacker has his style for making money illegally which naturally leads to very different ways of thinking about the same problems. This is why understanding how hacks are possible will give you a better comprehension of how different hackers make money illegally.

1) The most popular way is using botnets. Botnets are networks of computers that have been infected with malicious software and can then be used by the hacker for various purposes. Different kinds of criminals use botnets for different purposes: some send spam (advertising), some steal credit card information from online shops or banks, while others exploit their computing power to mine bitcoins.

2) Another method is hacking web servers or other servers which contain personal data. Hackers usually break into administrative portals, where they often find weak passwords on their accounts. Account usernames and password combinations can be used to attack user accounts on the same system, or from there take control of more computers and so on.

3) Another way is to email computer security companies asking for free trial versions of their software. The software that they get is already infected with malicious code which can then be used to hack other computers.

4) Phishing is an illegal method that relies on people’s naivety. In this technique, a hacker sends emails pretending that it is from some legitimate company. Those emails usually contain links towards viruses, social engineering content, which asks for personal information such as passwords, and malware download sites. These types of attacks are very common during Christmas or Easter holidays because many companies send out mass emails with sales offers, coupons and other things that people tend to click on.

5) Another method is using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). This tool enables a hacker to control other computers from afar while appearing as if he was sitting in front of those computers. To do so the hacker usually looks for weak passwords or user names stored on an online forum which can be used to hack into peoples computers. But also administrative accounts are often included in publicly shared lists due to admins becoming lazy and not changing their default login credentials.

6) Ironically enough hackers sometimes actually seek employment with companies whose business is breaking security systems. There’s a lot of money involved in this type of work; that’s why big companies employ experts who take care of their data security. If you want to become one of those experts, then you have to find an internship with a company that will probably place you near the server rooms and give you access so that they can train you on how to break into companies’ servers.

7) Another illegal method is phishing for money through PayPal or other online payment systems. Hackers need a lot of money to build botnets that require expensive hardware. Usually, hackers use stolen credit card information to bypass the verification system which is used by e-commerce sites, while others create fake accounts and ask people from all over the world for donations using money transfer services like PayPal, claiming that some “good cause” needs help. There are also those hackers who send out spam email messages through their botnets informing people that they can make a lot of money by clicking on links that supposedly contain advertisements, while in reality are just another trick used to phish for personal information.

8) Cryptojacking is another method of earning illegal profit. In this technique, websites use hidden scripts to mine cryptocurrencies from visitors’ CPUs. The mining process causes visitors computers to work harder and consume more electricity than usual so that the owner of the website can gain some cash from all that processing power usage without actually paying anything for it.

9) Blackmail is one other popular way to earn money illegally but is usually only used by hackers who have already gained access to servers or computers of some company. They then steal large amounts of important data which they threaten to release to demand ransom from the company that owns the server or else publish it online for everyone to see against their will.

10) Finally, some hackers work as programmers and have access to various code repositories. This is usually how you get hired for a job in programming. If those hackers take advantage of that access and leak content before its official release time (i.e. movies) then they could be charged with copyright infringement but if they do it on a smaller scale without getting caught then perhaps no one would notice.


Hackers can make money both in a good or in a wrongful manner. The recent arrest of one of the most notorious hackers, Hushpuppi, is a clear indication that hacking for malicious purposes will eventually catch up with the perpetrator. If you are considering taking up a career as a hacker, choosing from the many legal ways of doing so will help you evade trouble.

Gene Botkin

Gene is a graduate student in cybersecurity and AI at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Ongoing philosophy and theology student.

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