It is difficult to characterize the people who cause incidents. An intruder may be an adolescent who is curious about what he or she can do on the Internet, a college student who has created a new software tool, an individual seeking personal gain, or a paid "spy" seeking information for the economic advantage of a corporation or foreign country. An incident may also be caused by a disgruntled former employee or a consultant who gained network information while working with a company. An intruder may seek entertainment, intellectual challenge, a sense of power, political attention, or financial gain.
One characteristic of the intruder community as a whole is its communication. There are electronic newsgroups and print publications on the latest intrusion techniques, as well as conferences on the topic. Intruders identify and publicize misconfigured systems; they use those systems to exchange pirated software, credit card numbers, exploitation programs, and the identity of sites that have been compromised, including account names and passwords. By sharing knowledge and easy-to-use software tools, successful intruders increase their number and their impact.