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Hackers - What is Hacking?

Updated on January 20, 2012

Computer Hacking

Ever since I started SEO work, everyone seems to mention cyber warfare and hackers when I talk about the internet, but the average persons perception of hacking is greatly distorted by what they see in the media.

I don't claim to know everything about hacking or support particular hacktivists, I just find it fascinating that the average person(wealth-wise) has the intelligence and capability for infiltrating highly protected information.

Hackers Film

I just want to begin by disregarding some of the hype seen in the Hackers movie made in 1995 starring Angelina Jolie, don't get me wrong, its a good film but over glamorizes over and over emphasizes computer capabilities.

Of course hackers gain access to important files when bypassing computer security via a telephone line, but I think the graphics displayed in the movie are more to visualize the dull binary code process which actually takes place when commanding a computer to perform a specific function.

Computer Hacking

Computer hacking essentially means to find weaknesses in an existing system and exploit them for a cause or to an individuals advantage, this has never been officially announced as ethical or immoral but the negative stereotype exists because we never hear of the 'Whitehat hackers' such as Trustwaves SpiderLab who perform hacking to inform powerful clients of weaknesses in their systems.

The most common form of hacking in today's society occurs via the internet and may involve brute-force attacks to reveal the administrative passwords for a Website's FTP password, this involves a program which will try every dictionary word automatically until the correct combination is revealed.

Other techniques can involve packet-sniffers which are programs which intercept data being transferred over a network and vulnerability scanners which check for weak spots which already exist in a computer system.

Since the latter methods are becoming more and more hard to achieve due to heightened security software programs, a new method has evolved called social engineering.

Blackhat Hackers

Social engineering involves exploiting the people that are uneducated about the computer technology which they use, for example, they may trick you into visiting a link, opening an email or revealing your password.

Phishing has become more well known but there are still a majority who don't realize that visiting a link in a spam email may direct you to a fake login page which appears exactly like an official site but actually records the password you typed in.

A Root-kit is a file than can be downloaded along with a desired file and then executes commands which subvert the settings of an operating system from the functions desired by the administrator.

A Key Logger is a program which records all the passwords you 'key' in and can report them back to the person who sent you the file.

I wanted to discuss the above methods which Blackhat hackers use to cause mayhem simply for personal amusement or malicious purposes. The most famous are Viruses which duplicate files and spread like a real life virus and eventually stop the functioning of system and a Trojan Horse which pretends to be a genuine program whilst secretly opening a backdoor for intruders.

Anonymous Hacker

The latest news about hackers in media is concerned with the the groups 'Anonymous' and 'Lulsec', these groups have been reported for attacking major corporations websites such as Mastercard and Visa.

The method that Anonymous used to temporarily bring down Mastercard's site was called a Denial of Service attack where a large amount of supporters of the attack come together to target their bandwidth towards a site making it too crowded for genuine visitors to access.

Google Hacker

Other stories I have heard included a government officials accusation that the Chinese government tried to hack her Google account. I don't believe this to be true for a moment, the only argument that this official has is that IP address used to gain access to her account was located in China.

However, an important point to make is that a well known method of staying anonymous for internet hackers is to use a 'Private Proxy' address.


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    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 6 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Interesting Hub. I agree about the movies--they have always been "romaniticised" and likely will continue to be so to the end of time. I'm glad to see you address the problem of "social engineering." Another problem I faced as a contractor doing tech support in the tax and banking industry was called "social networking" in which a person who wanted to hack an account would call with some basic information and fish to get more from the agent by saying things like "Oh, I can't remember what phone number I was using then. Can you tell me if it was in the XXX area code . . ." Then when the person gets the info, they hang up, call back, and fish for more info from the next agent. Scary, but it happens often and works rather well.