Hacking On the Rise, Cybersecurity a Priority
Posted on 2017-09-20 by Sean Williamson
As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, its uses and benefits are increasingly embedded in our lives – and so are its security risks. Hacking, defined as gaining unauthorised access to data in a system or computer, is rife, with some reports of businesses experiencing at least one incident a year sitting at 50%.
Most organisations are now very aware of cybercrime, and have strong security measures in place. Banks make use of iron clad security features, as do leading online casinos that accept real money, e-commerce stores and every reputable entity that deals with financial or confidential data. SSL data encryption technology, secure servers and firewalls, and a variety of other trusted methods keep users safe, and their data secure.
While it’s clear that we need to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, the extent of the threat they pose is only just being realised. In the words of Ginney Rometty, IBM President and Chief Executive Officer, cybercrime is “the greatest threat to every profession, every industry, every company in the world”. Thus, it is important to realise that cybersecurity is more important than it has ever been before, and no one is safe from cybercrime.
Understanding Hacking and its History
Hacking was not always viewed in a negative light. Initial hacking activities were simply to see how far computing devices of the day could be pushed. In the 1960s, students at MIT started creating shortcuts to get computing jobs done faster, and called them “hacks”. These are considered the first authentic hackers.
In the 1990s, personal computers made hacking possible on a scale that had not been seen before. The first-known use of polymorphic code, which is used to get around the pattern recognition technology used by antivirus software, was in 1992 when a hacker named Dark Avenger wrote 1260.
As the Internet exploded after 1994, hackers quickly adapted. How-to hacking programmes were moved to hacking websites, and AOLHell disrupted the use of AOL for days. More and more criminal-like activities occurred, with several US Government agencies penetrated, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation breached by the group Brotherhood.
Hacking continued to develop apace, and in 2002 ElcomSoft and Dmitry Sklyarov were charged with developing and trafficking a programme that circumnavigated protections on copyrighted material. Malware and ransomware became more common, and hackers diversified into the Black Hat, White Hat and Grey Hat categories that we see now.
White Hats use what they can do for good, such as helping a company identify security risks. Black Hats use their powers for evil or extortion, like when The Dark Overlord tried to extort money from Netflix by threatening to release unseen episodes of Orange is the New Black in 2017. Grey Hats fall in between; they might not exploit anyone but they are also unlikely to report what they find.
The playful nature of exploring what can be done is still central to the hacker subculture, but these days things can get much darker. Groups like Anonymous, Wikileaks and Operation AntiSec release hundreds of classified documents, exposing governments with serious consequences, with a sense of mischief in all their exploits.
The Diverse Nature of Cybercrimes
The two main issues with cybercrime are that adaptations and developments can happen so quickly, and that so many nefarious activities can be carried out. Gaining access to information lies at the heart of all cybersecurity breaches, and that can then be used in different ways.
As technology continues evolving, so too will hacking. The Internet of Things, still in its infancy, and other mobile threats are introducing new ways to breach phone and tablet security. Since the same devices are usually used on business and personal networks, the effects here could be really devastating.
We’ve seen proof of infidelity leaked by hackers from Ashley Madison, breaches to bank security where accounts have been hacked, ransomware attacks that block legitimate access to files, serious allegations of voting rigging, releasing governmental secrets, and even high-profile celebrities’ private email accounts being hacked. And many insiders say that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
As hackers spread their reach and are able to attack in just about every sector, cybersecurity awareness should be at an all time high, and preventative measures should always be in place, and kept updated.