Hackers aren’t always bad people wanting to ruin your lives. Here’s everything you need to know about the business of hackingSameer Qureshi email@example.com
What is hacking?
Your computer is like a house and a hacker is someone with a pointy metal hat who charges the gate, scales the walls or uses stolen keys to get inside capable of stealing your most prized possessions and causing damage to your property.
A hacker can mean different things depending on how the term is used. Every programmer dreams of being a hacker. Hackers are programming code jockeys who can throw bits of programming seemingly at will. People who modify computer and other pieces of electronic hardware are also sometimes called hackers.
Being a hacker can also be a bad thing. A hacker or a hack can sometimes be someone that has no grace or elegance in his work. Thanks to Hollywood, people think that a hacker is a person who gains access to a computer and steals stuff or breaks into military networks and launches missiles for fun and with no conscience.
Hackers aren’t always bad people wanting to ruin your lives. There are white-hat hackers and black-hat hackers. White-hat hackers are ethical hackers who are computers security experts who attempt to gain access to a computer or network to detect vulnerabilities so that they can be patched. White-hat hackers are also called sneakers, red teams or tiger teams. Black-hat hackers gain unauthorised access to a computer or network with malicious intent. They’re also called “crackers”. For simplicity we’ve used the popular mass media definition of hackers interchangeably with crackers.
There’s a hierarchy in the hacker community too. An advanced cracker writes his own tools and develops his own break-in mechanisms to gain access to computers. Lower down on the hacker food chain are the script kids. These electronic intruders use freely distributed tools designed by others to engage in computer vandalism, break-ins, or electronic theft.
Who are the hackers?
Looking into hackers’ minds, you have to be open to the social aspects and think like the way they think. Often portrayed as loners, hackers can be socially involved and fit into what is considered “normal” everyday lives. Regardless of the kind of lifestyle they lead every hacker has a knack for solving puzzles and an attitudes to push himself to the limit. Their motivations may be different. Some do it for money, some for a social or political cause and some just do it for the sheer adrenaline rush.Hackers usually use social engineering to gain most of their knowledge. “Social Engineering” is the act of getting someone to disclose sensitive information through trust. “Brute force”, “exploit” and “dictionary attacks” are usually started through the use of software on the hacker’s computer. To avoid detection, he may use proxies or zombie machines so that this location can’t be determined.
With the technology and tools available today, hacking has become easier. With the wrong intent, anyone can hack –right from a peevish employee to a rejected lover. The peevish employee may destroy files or read confidential documents and a rejected lover might reveal intimate details to the public. Many high-profile hackers are in their 20s and 30s. However, many are simply teenagers who have access to publicly available hacking tools that can be downloaded online easily.
What do hackers go after?
Here ‘s a list of what hackers are generally after:
Spam: Most hackers are interested in getting their code onto personal computers so that they can be turned into spam machines. This way they can publicise useless products for which they get paid by the company.
Corporate data: Corporate networks are highly protected because they have very sensitive data. A breach in the security can compromise their ability to function. A hacker knows this and hacks into the system to extort or blackmail the company. He can also steal data and sell it in the black market.
Personal computers: Your PC has a lot more important data than you think. Although personal computers are not the prime targets for elite hackers, they still remain an attractive target for the script kids. Most often they look for your financial account details. Some of them might just want to snoop around in your index. Others might want to take control of your laptop.
Mobile phones: Mobile phones are usually hacked to make free calls while the victim is charged for them. However with the new smart phones, your phone can be targeted for your account details,your personal documents, photos etc.
Web servers: An website is hosted on a web server. If the web server is compromised, the hacker can deface the website to display information of the hacker’s choice to the public.
Hacktivism: Hacktivism is a form of vandalism or electronic civil disobedience with a political agenda. This usually has altruistic motives.
(The author is a freelance writer on Cyber Security)