Hacking is an ever-growing threat. Cybersecurity threats are evolving quickly, from phishing attacks that target your employees’ email addresses to ransomware and IoT vulnerabilities.
The term hacker typically conjures up images of lone rogue programmers without regard for ethics. Yet, the truth is far more complex.
The term ‘hacking’ is often associated with cybercriminals who target online accounts and systems to steal sensitive information or even take down critical networks. This can happen through malicious software or by exploiting flaws in computer programs and systems. People hack for many reasons, from personal gain to corporate or national espionage. Hackers are also motivated by competition and street cred, gaining a reputation within the hacker subculture as they break into rivals’ websites or systems. Other hackers are politically or socially driven as hacktivists, using their skills to raise public awareness around specific issues. The activities of hacktivist groups most famously demonstrate this.
In addition, fake hacking is when a person claims to have hacked a target. Fake hacking can be used to extract money from businesses by making them believe they have been infiltrated by ransomware, and some do not always have the same long-lasting effects as other types of hacking.
Sometimes, fake hackers will use a website known as a “hacker typer,” which gives the impression that the user has been hacked. While this is somewhat harmless and simple, other techniques may be so convincing that the victim believes a real hacker has accessed their machine.
However, not all hackers are bad guys, and there are good hacker subcultures that use their talents to test out vulnerabilities for the greater good of society. These are known as white hat hackers. Similarly, hacking can also be used to test and demonstrate the security of software or online systems.
However, social media offers a new platform for criminals to operate on that has not existed before. Social media profiles are publicly visible and suggest a huge audience reach for criminals, giving them the potential to sway audiences with their cunning tricks and scams. For example, the hackers that hijacked a Twitter account known as The Hacker News now have a verified profile with over 370,000 followers that they can use to spread misinformation.
New Forms of Media
A lone rogue hacker in their bedroom is how many people think of hackers. Still, the reality is that cybercriminals operate as sophisticated teams, employing stealthy attack methods to go unnoticed by cybersecurity software and systems. They can access data and compromise computer and IT systems for various reasons.
For example, cybercriminals can use information from social media to target specific individuals for phishing or identity theft or launch denial-of-service attacks to disrupt the operation of websites and critical networks. They may also steal information from corporate systems to gain a competitive marketplace advantage, engage in corporate espionage, or act as part of nation-state hacking campaigns focusing on a political or ideological agenda.
White hat hackers – which include security professionals and some cybercriminals – seek to improve the safety of systems by finding vulnerabilities and addressing them. Often, these efforts are made public to alert black hat hackers to the existence of openness, and they can also be performed as a service for the greater good.
Grey hat hackers fall somewhere in between, exploiting vulnerabilities to gain street cred and burnish their reputation within the hacker subculture or for other reasons that don’t involve financial gain. They may also carry out a hack to focus attention on an issue or as a form of protest.
Hackers are typically motivated by four key factors: financial gain (such as stealing credit card numbers), corporate espionage to steal data and intellectual property from competitors, national security-related hacking, and even a desire to get revenge or raise awareness on political issues. For example, hackers, known as “hacktivists,” focus their digital crusades on government information deemed in the public interest.
Later, hackers diversified into telephone hacking to take advantage of the operational characteristics of the new digital switching system and make free long-distance calls. The teens who obsessively explored these low-tech ways to crack the system became known as phreaks.
Today, cybercriminals use fake ads to compromise user security by embedding malware. Malware may include phishing attacks that trick users into providing private data or downloading ransomware. Users can detect suspicious sites by avoiding blocks of duplicated text and stale stock photos. Additionally, any requests for personal or financial information unrelated to the site’s services should be a red flag. A lack of website verification or an authentic email address can signal a scam.
While many people believe hackers to be lone rogue programmers, hacking is a multibillion-dollar industry with highly sophisticated techniques. These include deepfake, which enables criminals to impersonate people and companies. This attack has recently hit Bill Gates, Twitter, and other well-known individuals. Criminals use this technology to send emails requesting money or threatening a security breach of their accounts.
These hackers are known as black hats and have no qualms about exploiting computer systems and software vulnerabilities for financial gain, personal revenge, corporate espionage, or other malicious reasons. They can be individuals or members of organized crime syndicates. Their crimes triggered government response in the past, resulting in high-profile arrests. Those caught were slapped with lengthy jail sentences.
Cybersecurity breaches are a genuine concern for everyone. Hackers have already brought down airport radar systems, disrupted hospital emergency services, sabotaged train systems, caused false air-raid alerts, and wiped out entire databases. In addition, malware like ransomware can infect your computer or mobile device, hijacking your data and demanding payment.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is difficult to recover a compromised account. Criminals can access their profiles, pictures, and information when a user is hacked. This includes their passwords and the ability to change their username. They can also post to their account, including sending private messages.