When the word hacker first showed up on the mid-1960s, it was a rather innocuous term used to describe a programmer who “hacked” out computer code. These early hackers innovated new ways to use computers, wrote code they called “patches” to fix bugs in existing programs, and were generally curious about every aspect of how computers worked. As computers evolved, however, the term hacker started to take on a new meaning—a person who uses computers to explore a computer or network to which he or she doesn’t belong; someone we need to protect ourselves against using clever and effective technological safety measures.
This definition is still generally used today and can technically be used to describe people who perform this type of exploration regardless of intent. If I’m being fair, there are probably many reasons why hackers choose to ply their trade, including idle curiosity, to challenge themselves and for malicious purposes. Yet in today’s world, the average person hears the word hacker and is likely to envision a person or group of people who harass, defraud, steal and generally wreak havoc via their computers. And, with approximately 75% of newsworthy cyber attacks in 2014 being geared toward cyber crime, cyber espionage or cyber warfare, I’m not surprised.2
How Hackers Attack
Thousands of different programs are utilized by hackers to explore computers and networks, and these programs can definitely be used for nefarious means. Many of these programs are used to attack innocent users and organizations in these and other ways:
- Logging Keystrokes, which can be used to gain access to a system or steal a person’s identity.
- Hacking Passwords, which allows attackers to gain access to networks, computers and accounts.
- Distributing Computer Viruses, which can cause problems ranging from a crashed computer to a wiped out hard drive.
- Gaining Backdoor Access, which gives the hacker free access an entire computer or system.
- Creating Zombie Computers, which allows them to use the hacked computer to commit further attacks.
- Spying on E-Mail, which is the cyber equivalent of a wiretap.
Hacking can and does compromise the security of computers and networks; that’s why I feel it is important to know how to safeguard your computer or business against hackers. Back in December, I wrote a post about ways to safeguard your business against hackers. While I wrote that blog post specifically for businesses, it has a lot of good information about hacker security that individuals can use as well. In short, it tells you to:
- Encrypt Your Data
- Implement a Firewall
- Understand and Utilize Password Security
- Utilize Antivirus and Antimalware Software
- Update Your OS and Other Software Regularly