Ways to Prevent Unnecessary Hacks
Has your computer been hacked before?
Mobile-1, a mobile service provider used by thousands here in Singapore, had to suspend their customers’ pre-orders of IPhone 6 when it discovered a potential vulnerability in its website.
Thankfully, the customer who discovered the loophole, a graduate in computer science, alerted the service provider when he found that he could easily breach the website and secure the data of M1’s customers.
Having a website destroyed is a harrowing experience. Apart from having to reconstruct it completely, you will lose valuable data. It may prompt you to ask why hackers do what they do and quite importantly, how they do it.
On a heartening note, there are ways to prevent such maliciousness.
Why hackers hack
So why do hackers commit their terrible deeds? The action of defacing and defiling computers has several motivations.
For a start, some hackers are vindictive. They may have left their workplaces, computer-related or not, for unpleasant reasons. They seek to make the company they left vulnerable by revealing its data.
Ego has a large part to play in a hacker's actions. Having information on hand is edifying for them; it boosts their ego and puts them in a superior position.
And then, secret knowledge is addictive. It gives hackers a thrill, just as a tawdry love affair would. The feeling is akin to having a secret of a dear friend playing in one's mind.
Most hackers deface websites out of sheer boredom; it is the same reason teens use when asked why they vandalize walls, tables, and chairs with annoying, yet captivating graffiti.
Pure greed motivates. Some hackers hack the websites of banks and other financial institutions to steal. Others extort; they hack into a vulnerable person’s website, download compromising photographs and threaten to expose them if they do not get a large sum of money in return for their discretion.
The trouble with hacking
Hacking is an unwanted menace in today’s society. A hacker is a troublesome foe for a few reasons.
Hacking is, of course, a destructive, criminal act. Deliberately accessing sensitive information puts them on par with your average bank robber. Picture a scenario with hackers accessing the systems of military websites around the world. With increasing nuclear threats, the potential hazard is self-explanatory.
Moreover, hackers make you vulnerable. Their access to your sensitive photographs or emails can cause potential harm to relationships or finance.
The fact that it is so easy to access websites makes hackers so dangerous. Many governments do not make hacking a crime punishable by law. Hacking is not, technically, a crime. Even if it were, it is hard to catch them in the act. Hackers often use rotating IP addresses so that no one can fix their location.
Further, they parallel back robbers, yet are as stealthy as ninjas. A person does not know that he is a victim until his computer slows terribly. The realization may only dawn when an offensive goblin replaces his website's homepage.
How Hackers Do It
So how do these fellows creep up on you? They have a few tricks up their sleeves, and you deserve to know them.
1. Log In Keystrokes
Computer programs allow a hacker to review every keystroke his victim makes. When a person keys in a password or fills in an online form, his keystrokes reveal his identity. Hackers mimic these keystrokes to gain access to passwords.
Hackers may also use simple combinations and algorithms to hack someone’s password. Computer experts term this a Brute Force Attack.
3. Gaining backdoor access
If a hacker cannot use password algorithms, he may try to gain backdoor access to a computer system by using software to search for unprotected pathways. They then infect the computer with the notorious Trojan Horse virus weakens it and allows the hacker to gain such access.
4. Creating Zombie Computers
A zombie computer, or a bot, connects your computer with a hacker’s system. A clean code or password entry on the victim’s part opens a connection between them. The bot allows the hacker to spread spam or commit other crimes.
5. Spying on email
Hackers create code that allows them to read emails. Thankfully, today’s email programs use encryption formulas. Hackers are unable to read the mail they intercept.
The Best Way to Prevent Cybercrime and Hacking Attempts
14 Tips to prevent hacking
1. Validate input.
Bloggers will find this particularly useful. As writers, we prize comments and treat them as treasures. But a comment form allows a hacker to insert disruptive HTML code.
Some bloggers already use captchas and validation software. Such software, however, needs further development. Those who are not hackers or spammers have difficulty reading captchas.
2. Do not install third-party scripts.
Installing third-party scripts or programs on your computer is dangerous because they, again, connect your computer to a potential hacker’s system. Visit community forums such as Digital Point or Site Point to seek advice.
3. Stay away from potential scams.
And then, it is advisable to stay away from potential scams. Popular, but dubious websites are those that guarantee high traffic in exchange for buying software. These scams are sure ways for hackers to gain entry into your computer’s systems.
4. Clear your cookies.
Your memory may not serve you well. You may find storing passwords on my browser tempting. Store them in a safe excel file instead. Log into your browser’s preferences and clear website data regularly.
5. Store sensitive data in a secure format.
To prevent hackers from harvesting valuable data such as email addresses or phone numbers, store it in a secure format such as MYSQL database.
6. Use file permissions.
Those who use Wordpress platforms for their blogs know that they have to set file permissions. For those who allow their hosting companies to do so for them, file permissions enable you to grant others access to view your records. Default file permissions are 777, which allows everyone to see them. Always tweak these permissions so that some files stay private.
7. Do not use generic usernames or passwords.
Never use generic passwords such as “admin”. Always use an alphanumeric password that starts with a capital letter and ends with a symbol. Such a password forces a hacker to do time-consuming guesswork. Always update your passwords regularly.
8. Secure your ports.
Ports transfer data from your computer to another server. Those who use Wordpress blogs know that they have to transfer their FTP files to their hosting company’s servers. Make sure that you close ports thoroughly after you use them. In other words, log out of another party’s server once you have no use for it.
9. Update your security.
Then, update your website’s security regularly. You may update plugins on a regular basis, so watch out for your files.
10. Do not share information.
You may make the mistake of not clearing your username from websites you visit. Again, this gives leeway to a hacker to create chaos.
11. Organize yourself.
You are probably a member of one social media site or another, and may use certain internet services for certain purposes. Always delete the services you do not use.
12. Create backups.
Backup your website data. Many WordPress plugins enable you to do this. They are free, so make use of them.
13. Use firewalls.
Firewalls help you detect threats to your computer’s security. They are the noses that sniff out the malware and spyware that hackers install. A disadvantage of these programs is that they consume a lot of your computer’s memory and slow it down.
14. Do not run redundant systems or software
Try not to run programs that you have not used for a while. Defunct programs are an open door for potential hacks.
E. Types of hackers
Different computer hackers have different intentions. Here are some common ones.
1. White Hats
These are the hackers that break into computer systems to do damage. They have the same skills as malicious hackers but use them to help instead of harm (think Robin Hood).
Organizations employ White Hats to test for vulnerabilities in the networks.
2. Black Hats
The black hats are the ones who arouse wariness. These fellows break into computer systems for various unethical purposes.
3. Grey Hats
This fellow is ambiguous. A Gray Hat does not harbor ill intent, but may sometimes resort to unethical activities.
4. A Script Kid
The name is apt. This person is a “kid” because he lacks the skills of a hacker. He relies on scripts or software programs to cause damage.
Find this fellow trying to tap into your phone to use your telecommunications systems, for messaging purposes or otherwise. He sometimes tricks phone systems into allowing him to make long distance calls.
6. A Hacktivist
This fellow has political motivations. He usually hacks government websites and leaves messages for the world to see.
7. Computer Security Hackers
This hacker targets computer networking systems. He has the skills to breach firewalls that protect network servers.
8. Academic Hacker
Such a recalcitrant is a student of an educational institution. This student may either be out for revenge on the organization for not giving him perfect grades, or want to use its computing resources to create programs.
9. Hobby Hackers
A home hacker hacks for his convenience. He may attempt to jailbreak his IPAD, or crack the code of software to use it without a license.
F. Famous Hackers
HHere are some hackers we know well and admire grudgingly. Some names may surprise you.
1. Apple’s Founders
Yes, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were both hackers. Some of their activities bordered on the maliciousness of the hackers we know today. Thankfully, they redirected themselves and gave us a company that created the new iPhone 6.
2. Johnathan James
James was the first junior to go to jail for hacking. He broke into the systems of high-profile agencies, including NASA and the Department of Justice. He did so for the thrill; the youngster wanted to see if he could pull it off.
3. Adrian Lamo
Lamo broke into reputable organizations like the New York Times and Microsoft. The Homeless Hacker, he has internet connections all over America.
4. Kevin Mitnick
Mitnick is a famous hacker who exploited the Los Angeles bus punch card system. He hacked into computers consistently and stole corporate secrets. Producers documented his activities in two movies.
5. James Arokiasamy
Singapore can boast hacktivist James Arokiasamy. Also known as the Messiah, he hacked into government websites and other organizations to steal website data. He was “hacked” with 105 charges of computer misuse.
You can prevent hacking from disrupting your life, if you put the proper measures in place.