10 Most Powerful (Known) Active Hacking Groups

Updated on March 7, 2018
[All photos are public domain unless specified]
[All photos are public domain unless specified]

Hackers are a diverse group

There are young, prank hackers like Lizard Squad. Lizard Squad infamously used a DDOS attack to take down Playstation and Xbox networks during Christmas (it's a pretty sinister prank to target children like that). Some hackers are older, and often work as "computer security consultants" who advise companies on how to protect themselves. Some hackers are in it for monetary gain, while others are in it for the lulz and the power.

More and more there are state-sponsored groups that have Hollywood-style capabilities. The best known example of this is Stuxnet, an Israeli (as well as probably American) worm that infected Iran nuclear facilities. Stuxnet caused the nuclear centrifuges to go haywire while the control system displays for those centrifuges would read normally. It had the power to create a devastating explosion while monitoring stations appeared normal. The scariest part is that it could be refitted easily for just about any industrial operation.

Since a virus like Stuxnet is much harder to pull off than a DDOS attack, most of the groups on this list are state-sponsored. Disclaimer: I don't have outstanding technical knowledge on the subject, feel free to critique in the comments.

10: Bureau 121

Although most technology in North Korea is extremely outdated, their government still has shown interest in hacking. According to defectors, military hackers live extravagant lives in North Korea. Top students are handpicked from straight out of their "University of Automation" school. The primary wing of this hacking group is known as Bureau 121. It comprises about 1,800 people that work around the world (because internet infrastructure in NK is pretty terrible).

Most of the Bureau's activity has been focused on South Korea. Attacks have ranged from malicious gaming apps targeted at South Korea, hacking the website of the South Korean President, and destroying data of banks and broadcasting companies. Guardians of Peace, the group behind the famous Sony hack might have been a Bureau 121 proxy. That particular hack cost Sony about $15 million.

9. Chaos Computer Club

Chaos Computer Club (CCC) is probably only one of two groups on this list with any sort of moral code. It also is probably the oldest- it was founded by a small group of Germans in 1981.

Today it is a large association of mostly German-speaking hackers. CCC has made a number of hacks where they first consulted legal experts to make sure that what they were doing was legal. Although they almost permanently reside in or around legal grey-area, this willingness to operate within legal bounds has allowed their survival. Not only have they survived, but they've been accepted, recognized, and sometimes glorified by the press. Since it is a large disorganized association of people with exceptional computer security technical knowledge, not everyone has always behaved according to law.

CCC gained notoriety in the 80's when they notified the Deutsche Bundespost of flaws in their online system. Deutsche Bundespost was somewhat of an ideal target for an early hacktivist group, because they actively tried to keep more technologically advanced startups from competing. Deutsche Bundespost's system provider responded by assuring everyone that the system was secure. Of course, CCC still hacked the system and stole DM 134,000. They returned the money the next day.

8. Morpho

Morpho, a.k.a. Wild Neutron, is a well-funded group that has executed dozens of high profile hacks since 2011 on tech, pharmaceutical, and investment companies. They're likely not state-sponsored because their hacks usually steal insider information for monetary gain. They've hit Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter via zero-day exploits. Since zero-day exploits are unknown to the software vendor as long as they are undiscovered, they give powerful access to the hacker. This is a contrast to something simple like a DDOS that just overloads server traffic for a period of time.

Morpho is particularly interesting because they are likely a sophisticated small group. Some of their signatures include multi-platform malware, well-documented code, bitcoins to pay hosting providers, and multi-staged command and control networks with encrypted virtual machines. They are English-speaking and are very good at covering their tracks.

7. Syrian Electronic Army

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is a hacker group with Syrian sympathies as well as connections to Iran and Hezbollah. They've show a wide array of attack capabilities. Most famously, they've defaced many major Western news outlets, but they have also managed to locate opposition rebels using malware. Also, if you're a fan of The Onion, you should read the Onion's response to a SEA hack.

The SEA is unique because of its varied tone and style. For example, it tweeted from AP's account that Obama had been injured in explosions at the White House. This one simple tweet sparked a dramatic temporary fall in the DOW Jones Index. On the lighter side, they've tweeted from BBC Weather that "Saudi weather station down due to head on-collision with camel". Their familiarity with English colloquialism and humor raises questions about the SEA's identity, but the NYT has stated that the SEA is probably Iranian.

6. Anonymous

Anonymous is probably the most recognizable hacker group to at least the American general public. They originated in 2003 on 4chan, and have grown to be a significant force on the internet. Anonymous draws some power from being extremely decentralized, and they therefore can keep operations running even if someone is arrested (as many have been). Most of their hacks historically have been of the liberal hacktivist variety, although others have been extremely serious or extremely light-hearted in nature.

Some of their more focused campaigns have been the Occupy Movement, anti-child pornography, and anti-Church of Scientology (some of which involved physical presence as well as an internet one). Although they have certain collective symbols, such as Guy Fawkes masks and taglines, there is no single person giving commands. If a person becomes too narcissistic and starts to use his or her own name for things, that person will be chastised and encouraged to leave. Anonymous is an idea, and it is an idea with unprecedented staying power.

5. Tarh Andishan/Ajax

Understandably, Iran was not pleased with Stuxnet. It jeopardized the country's nuclear power (and if you're more cynically-inclined, also nuclear bomb) ambitions. Iran decided it was best to aggressively upgrade their cyber capabilities. They did this in at least two ways: create an independent state-sponsored group, Tarh Andishan, and consult and hire existing Iranian hackivist groups (like Ajax).

Ajax was better known for website defacement, but after Stuxnet it's likely they were consulted for patriotic espionage (pioneered by the Chinese). Ajax is most famous for "Operation Saffron Rose" in which they attempted to gain information on U.S. defense industry officials with advanced phishing attacks.

Tarh Andishan is actually a little scarier for the average civilian because they've gained access to airport gate control systems in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Such access would allow them to spoof security credentials in an airport. They've also hacked industrial targets like oil, gas, and telecommunications companies.

4. Dragonfly

Another likely state-sponsored group, this time out of Eastern Europe and Russia, is Dragonfly. Dragonfly is likely state-sponsored due to its targets: electric grids, energy industry, and other control systems in U.S. and Europe. They're designated as an APT (Advanced Persistent Threat).

Their most common attacks are spear-phishing and watering hole attacks. This is not unusual for APT groups. They've also demonstrated capabilities to embed trojans in legitimate software for industrial control systems. This is very reminiscent Stuxnet. When Stuxnet was first found, it was recognized to be universal for many industries. It might be that we are starting to see Stuxnet-like worm capabilities for organizations other than the United States and Israel.

3. APT28

APT28 (named by FireEye) is unsurprisingly an Advanced Persistent Threat group. They're Russian, and might share funding sources with Dragonfly (although I don't know so I didn't group them together). All of their targets are targets that the Russian government is interested in, they speak Russian, and they've been traced back to a government sponsor in Moscow.

APT28 uses pretty well known hacking methods, and uses them successfully and often. They've hacked NATO, Polish government websites, Georgia ministries, and OSCE. They're unique in that they've been caught framing the Cyber Caliphate (ISIS) for their attacks. Just like other organizations on this list, they operate in areas with no extradition treaty to the U.S. - so they are immune to legal repercussions.

Elderwood Group and 20 other Chinese APTs

Elderwood Group, Axiom, Unit 61398, Comment Crew, Putter Panda, Hidden Lynx, and many more. China pioneered the state-sponsored hacking group, and they've continued to perfect the practice. Often it is difficult to tell whether the Chinese government is pulling the strings, funding, or even has affiliation with a group. I'm trying not to be ominous, but the list of hacks and zero-day exploits of these groups are rather long.

One of the more famous attacks came in 2010 under the name "Operation Aurora". We in part know about Operation Aurora because Google came forward and announced it had been hacked. Common targets included defense industries, human rights campaigns, and supply-chain firms. Elderwood group is a blanket term for all the groups involved. Sub-groups include Hidden Lynx (targeted defense industry and Japanese users), Linfo (manufacturing firms), Sakurel (aerospace companies), and Vidgrab (Uyghur dissidents). Such a coordinated, advanced, well-funded attack had to be orchestrated by the Chinese government. It is unclear what precautions will be taken to protect against increasingly sophisticated and persistent attacks in the future.

If that wasn't enough, the Chinese have vast troves of personal secrets of United States government employees.

1. Tailored Access Operations, NSA

If it weren't for Edward Snowden, we probably wouldn't know about Tailored Access Operations (TAO). TAO has some of the best capabilities in the world, and has collected about all the American telephone data you can imagine. Once revealed, more and more details have come out about them.

We now know they have 600 employees in the main NSA complex in Fort Mead, Maryland. There are also branches in Hawaii, Georgia, Texas, and Denver. They have sophisticated unique abilities that are difficult to even dream up. One of those capabilities is QUANTUMSQUIRREL, which allows them to appear on the internet anywhere as anyone. They've also compromised very common computer systems often with physical access or cooperation with network or hardware companies. They are known to force companies to insert vulnerabilities into their own systems for TAO to exploit.

Just about all the details of the organization are Orwellian. Take, for example, WARRIOR PRIDE. It's IPhone and Android software that can turn on a phone remotely, turn the microphone of the phone on and listen, track using geolocation, and its own tamper-proofing and stealth programming. That's just one that we know about.

Are you scared of hackers?

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    • profile image

      Romaan Ghazal 7 days ago

      I wanna hack a Facebook account of a person who is resisting me plz help how can I hack it? Plz it will be a remarkable thanks to you.

    • profile image

      S.R.S 11 days ago

      I wanna join the group,what is the joining requirement ?

    • profile image

      Mandysimmons 3 weeks ago

      I was being cheated on by my spouse, till very recently that i was able to intercept his messages, call logs, I also got remote access to all his devices and social media. Mail Darkwebssolutions on gmail

    • profile image

      Akshay 3 weeks ago

      Plz help me tech

    • profile image

      russian real hacker motherfucker come at me bro 3 weeks ago

      who want join my fortnite squad!!!!!

    • profile image

      lakdilu 3 weeks ago

      anyone help me.i like to hack phone call .but i don't it.anyone tech me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Skyler 4 weeks ago

      Anyone help to become a hacker if someone teaches i would be egesr to be ur student

    • profile image

      Fawad ahmad 4 weeks ago

      I wana be a hcker

    • profile image

      Oliver Bramwell 5 weeks ago

      Hey guys, I am an avid hacker

    • profile image

      unknown 5 weeks ago

      i need help to be a hacker

    • profile image

      Robel Ahmed 6 weeks ago

      I am bangladashe I am intersted joine you goorp

    • profile image

      Robel Ahmed 6 weeks ago

      I am bangladashe I am intersted joine you goorp

    • profile image

      Ransomware 7 weeks ago

      Need group

    • profile image

      Spyfix6 gmail 8 weeks ago

      Infidelity Hacker who helps in gathering information about cheating spouse.

    • profile image

      Jerry woodwork 2 months ago

      It's been hell trying to locate a genuine hacker, I recently came across an EC-council certified encryption specialist, advanced penetration testing and a computer hacking forensic investigator. very grounded fellow I must say... If you require the services of a competent hacker you can reach him on +12536422665 or Whatsapp +17277281231. You can also email stealthhackingservices@gmail .com. I guarantee your utmost satisfaction.

    • profile image

      jabulani 2 months ago

      hie guys can someone help me . i have a canon TS5040 printer and i need to put it in service mode but i cant

      need your help guys

    • profile image

      Obidi Love 2 months ago

      I want to be a hacker.any help?

    • profile image

      victor 3 months ago

      I want to be hacker any one teach me friends

    • profile image

      k.k.e 3 months ago

      How ti start hacking please help

    • profile image

      bella moore 4 months ago

      am so much happy for my friend wife who just notify me now that she got 8,000 usd from a hacker, who normaly hack government account and send it to people who are in need.... she said this the website that she got her money from cordinatehackers.wordpress.com

    • profile image

       4 months ago


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      activist.group 4 months ago

      Those who want to learn hacking go on you tube.com there are plenty videos

    • profile image

      nitish 4 months ago

      Pls add me

    • profile image

      activist.group 4 months ago

      What most hacker group say is untrue

      it is just to seem very important people. they do nothing.

      For example see how many ANONYMOUS WEBSITES are FAKE.

      This is bullshitt.

    • profile image

      Ölürüm Türkiyem 5 months ago

      Best hack group is "Ayyıldız Team"

      Group hacked anonymous

    • profile image

      luckygowtham 5 months ago

      I know that you will never teach me hacking...but i need to learn it...tell me some few steps for my beginning...help me to do it.

    • profile image

      Umarwait 5 months ago


      i want know about hacking . how can i start and with who . any one can help me please

    • profile image

      DataGone 5 months ago

      Lizard squad is bae, how did they not get on here, they took down Xbox and psn on Christmas, they are easily the best hacker group, and for those who are wondering, we all do it for the lulz ;)

    • profile image

      allan 5 months ago

      i need to join any of the group and do some hacking together with the stars

    • profile image

      T0xic Vap0r 5 months ago

      i think Anonymous should be in 1st cuz they hacked tv website and they growed so fast in internet...

    • profile image

      Afraid 6 months ago

      i want to be a hacke. please accept me and give me good idea for how i will a hacker

    • profile image

      SMz006 6 months ago

      I think next World War may be CyberAttacks...

      By SMz006

    • profile image

      Pete Rowlings 6 months ago

      Speaking of hackers, I never knew how useful they can get until I needed to access someone's phone to get a critical piece of evidence in defense of myself recently. I contact this hacker dude called Reputable (REPUTABLEHACKER at GMAIL dot COM), and he was able to access the phone remotely. He also does other forms of hack like helping you spy on a cheating spouse and repairing bad credit.

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      mason 6 months ago

      Hey can i join your group i need to ask is there money or selling stuff included and will we be caught and im 9 years old.

    • profile image

      john 7 months ago

      i think that hacker are the next generation soilders

    • profile image

      lady 7 months ago

      Hi Please help to hack this person, coz Im so worried about him

    • profile image

      Riswanahamed 7 months ago

      Hi bro

    • profile image

      MD kamruzzaman Titash 8 months ago

      hlw please teach me how can be.a hacker

    • profile image

      Luqman Shabir from Pakistan 8 months ago

      I am a bit black hacker. I am hacking Facebook and whatapp.

    • profile image

      max 8 months ago

      Some one has taken my lifetime investiment and i can get back to him coz hé has lots of cash and thé law is on his side. Néed to bring him down. Uganda based.

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      Ariana 8 months ago

      This is a quick advice for anyone in my shoes, suffering from infidelity. if you suspect your partner is cheating on you, or he/she is gradually changing in attitude, i advice you try to monitor him before its too late. contact SCOTT CYBERLORD to help you monitor your partner’s phone and computer activities, with this you will be able to know all his cheating activities. My partner cheated for many months, i was suspecting him but i couldn’t catch him until i used Scott's service, he help me in hacking all his social media account, monitor his call logs, text messages, i only pay for the software he used and I easily got proof he was cheating, then i confronted him, he told me he was honestly sorry and he has stopped since then. That was what i had to do to save my relationship. You may need such service to save yours too, contact him at ( scottcyberlord11 @ gmail com ) or text, call, Whatsapp him via +1 (628) 204 3588 and tell him Ariana referred you, thank me later.

    • profile image

      alex rober 8 months ago

      how can i hack somthing i raelly wanto learn that can sombody help me please

    • Xero Nemo profile image

      Xero Nemo 8 months ago

      Need some help with something, how can I contact these guys or a person who can help me...

      got a personal project, I'm sure it's below anyone's status, and will no doubt do nothing for your rep. but I need a little help so me and a few ex Marine friends are going to stop a local problem with a loan shark threatening "client's" kids, don't need anything bad, just two pieces of info of a recently deceased person, think anyone can help?

    • profile image

      ganesh 9 months ago

      I love those peoples who know hacking.

    • profile image

      salman 9 months ago

      Sar add me tha haking group

    • profile image

      ANISH M,tamil nadu 9 months ago

      i wanted one white hacker. i like hack work.learning the progarms

    • profile image

      ANONYMOUS 9 months ago

      i am anonymous and i am future .... its a warning to all group you all will finish so come and joined me . i am not joking

    • profile image

      rabindra 10 months ago

      I think I will be hacker

    • profile image

      gangdom 28 10 months ago

      i so love hacking dont u

    • profile image

      Caien 10 months ago

      I didn't see LulzSec up there

    • profile image

      shivakumar 10 months ago

      I want to learn hacking .I interest in this subject.please add me ur whattsup group as soon .my whattsup no is. 9442337940

    • profile image

      Lakka 10 months ago


    • profile image

      Mecha 10 months ago

      Hacking isn't a crime. It's a justice.

    • profile image

      cpuvirtual 11 months ago

      Hacking poorly developed systems is the most basic level, hacking dedicated firmware against faults, it's a level of expertise that demands skills that few have!

      Being self-taught is a suicide when the question is time, when the question is money, it's stupid.

      Choose the best tools but, attention, many mistakes are hidden in the computer products sold, making friends is the shortest way to have fun and be connected with reality!

    • profile image

      H4ck1ng1npr0gr3ss 11 months ago

      people think hacking is a realy serious issue but it is quite fun i have recently joined a hacking group my group recently hacked disney and have one of there new movies and were going to release it on the 25 of may maybe a bit earlier then that after all im only a kid btw there might be a couple bugs on this site in a couple hours after i posted this ;P

    • profile image

      saravanan 11 months ago

      how to join hacker group

    • profile image

      bigmac supreme 11 months ago

      why do these idiot authors still misuse the word "hacker"? A "hacker" is someone who only wants to see and not use the information they gathered. A "cracker" is someone who has malicious intent in mind when they decide to attack or steal. People need to start learning the difference of these two types of cyber criminals. This list has a mixture of both types of people. We need to stop the ignorance and sensationalizing of the media when using incorrect information.

    • profile image

      Wend1go 11 months ago

      hoping to see my name or one of my colleagues... disappointing

    • profile image

      Pratyushpandey 11 months ago

      I want to increase view and subscribe of my YouTube channel could you help me....

    • profile image

      Mohammed 11 months ago

      Sir i want to learn about hacking. I loved subject it. So plz add your whatsapp group.. Plz.... My whatsapp number:8547693065 Plz add me fast

    • profile image

      williamtheconquerer 12 months ago

      this wasn't awfully helpful , might need to sort your grammar blake

    • profile image

      MYTHMASK 13 months ago

      I have a friend that has the lizard squad on his side so no one can hack me with my protection by the way I'm a hacker atleast good enough to go on the squads anonymous and the lizard squad.

    • profile image

      Human 15 months ago

      Most of these people hack to spread the truth

    • profile image

      Colleen C 15 months ago

      yes a real interesting read !

    • Discordzrocks profile image

      Gavin Heinz 2 years ago from Austin TX

      I got hacked trying to get free Undertale, and guess who, a hacker.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      A real interesting hub on hacking groups around the world.

    • loche profile image

      anshuman katoch 2 years ago from shimla

      a fascinating read. I was under the impression that anonymous were the bigest hacking organization in the world but apparently its the US government :)

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      I know absolutely nothing about hacking but I found this a fascinating article. Really well put together. This one's a share.

    • adevwriting profile image

      Arun Dev 2 years ago from United Countries of the World

      Hacking is really a very serious issue.