At first the term ‘hacker’ was somewhat of a positive compliment used to describe a person who could push programs beyond what they were designed to do. It’s evolved since.
You’ve probably heard of recent events such as the hacking of Sony Pictures, the eBay hack (where the personal records of over 200 million users were stolen) and just last year the Russians got some of President Obama’s emails!
With almost everything being increasingly connected to the internet it’s no surprise we’re seeing an increasing number of these incidents— and if you don’t believe me checkout this map of internet attacks happening right now!
Over the past decade; followed by the burst of the dot-com-bubble, it brought with it a new age of internet hacking. Governments and private companies spent millions on programs to prevent the security breaches that followed, and security specialists are paid top dollar to uncover security flaws and vulnerabilities. Everyday we build something new and the hackers find another way to get around it.
As long as you’re not connected to the internet you are less prone to hacking. But it seems almost impossible in today’s culture. Everything from our laptops to phones to offices and recently cars and homes are connected to the internet or some network which leaves it vulnerable to an attack.
Here’s one way your computer could be hacked:
Worms and trojans can make their way into your devices either through the network you’re connected to or by piggybacking on emails and attached files. In one way or another they let hackers gain access to your computer and manipulate the data within. (You should not confuse your computer being hijacked by a virus to being hacked — it’s a common confusion)
Hackers could also just as easily get in through the wireless network you’re connected to or sniff data packets right off the air! You are vulnerable to such attacks in more ways than you might expect. They could even initiate off of your IP address. (Yours is: )
Just recently Wired Magazine featured an article in which two hackers (Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek) wirelessly take over a Jeep Cherokee to not only do things like turn the radio up, but also kill the engine in the middle of the highway! Apparently this security vulnerability is present on several other vehicle models (and they’ve already notified Chrysler about it).
Did you know you could hire a hacker online? Hacker’s List is one of several websites which offers to connect customers and “professional” hackers for hire, and it’s surprisingly legitimate (although most of the hacking services are illegal – for example hacking into email accounts). It’s not about corporate espionage anymore, now you can even hire a hacker for personal needs! Check these out:
All this goes to say that a new age of hacking is here; anyone can download the software and learn to hack you computer online. So what can you do to minimize the risk?
- Use a password manager like LastPass to securely remember your passwords and also to generate complex passwords for your accounts. It can help you make sure that you don’t use the same password twice, and take the hassle out of remembering complex passwords.
- Use two-factor authentication (usually with your phone).
- Don’t click/open ADs, emails or online file that you don’t recognize or look shady (no you didn’t win that lottery).
- Be careful about the public Wi-Fi network you connect to. All anyone needs is one software to see the data-packets being sent over the network.
- Although it seems impossible; try to limit the personal information (letters/photos/addresses/account nos.) that you save or use online (or on your computer). They can only get at what is ‘there’.
Those are just a few basic precautions. But the fact is you don’t get ‘randomly’ hacked. Usually the case is that you’re targeted and the hacker tries every possible exploit there is until they find their way in. When this happens (unless you’re some security expert running top of the line security software) they usually get their way.
While you worry about such personal attacks, you should also take a moment to look at the bigger picture. We’ve all heard the stories about the NSA, online tracking and the dark side of facial recognition. Truth be told we’re more likely to be affected by the ‘bigger picture’ than the aforementioned type of attack.
Companies and governments (sometimes) track you in the form of key logging, email monitoring, activity monitoring, telephone recordings and so on. But it seems like people take being tracked (without their permission) far less seriously than hacking which sometimes can go along the same lines: after all most cases of hacking are a breach of privacy and unauthorized tracking is technically hacking!
Stepping a bit out of line from the topic at hand: what’s even more absurd is how we sometimes give companies (mostly online services) permission to track us! Did you even notice the ADs that follow you around the internet? Ever thought about how it knows it’s you on the other end? Did you know you sometimes even get charged different prices (eg: online air tickets) based on profiles corporations build about you?
Think on it. Maybe it’s time you started reading those fine print terms of service agreements.