Hacking – A hooded figure types commands at top speed as the sterile glow of his monitor illuminates a dark room. Is this what comes to mind when you hear the term “hacker”? Actually, there are many types of hackers, so read on to learn all about them and how to protect yourself from their attacks.
Definition of hack
Hacking is the application of technology or technical knowledge to overcome some kind of problem or obstacle. Note that our definition does not intentionally include anything of a criminal nature. Although many hackers can and do use their abilities for evil purposes, and although many people associate hacking solely with criminal or security hacking, the concept goes further.
There are many types of hacking, although in this article we will focus on the world of computer hacking. If we asked people to define what hacking is, we would get two lines of response:
- Traditionally, a computer hacker is a skilled programmer and steeped in the culture of computers and software.
- However, according to the collective ideology, a hacker is a criminal who accesses computers and networks violating their security measures. This is what the media usually mean when they use the word “hacker” (or “hacker”).
Traditional hackers refer to criminal subversion of a security system as ” cracking ” (“to break,” from the English verb used, for example, when a bank robber opens a safe). So what is a hacker? To put it simply, a hacker is someone who applies their computer skills to solving a problem .
Depending on their motivations, hackers can belong to three groups: black hat, white hat, and gray hat. Let’s see what they are and what distinguishes them from each other.
Black hat hackers
A black hat hacker is the shady cybercriminal described above. They are those who break cybersecurity systems to gain illegal access to a computer or a network.
If a black hat hacker discovers a security vulnerability , they will exploit it or alert other hackers to the opportunity, usually for a price.
Most of the time, the ultimate goal of a black hat hacker is to make money, whether through direct financial theft, sale of compromised information, or extortion. However, sometimes they just try to cause as much chaos as possible.
The white hat hackers are the counterpart of the black hat. They are just as skilled, but instead of having criminal goals, these caring souls dedicate their talents to helping companies prepare their digital defenses. A white hat hacker will intentionally try to break into a system, with its owner’s permission, to identify weak spots that need to be repaired. This type of work is also known as “ethical hacking.”
Many white hat hackers work for large companies as part of the organization’s cybersecurity strategy.
Others offer their services as consultants or vendors, and are hired to test the security of a company.
They can go beyond penetration testing (assessing the strength of a cybersecurity system) and also test employees themselves with phishing campaigns aimed at taking over their login credentials.
Gray hat hackers
Between these two types are the gray hat hackers . They are neither the height of altruism, like white hat hackers, nor are they dedicated to committing crimes. While white hats get permission before testing a system for vulnerabilities, gray hats skip that part and go straight for the hack.
Some behave like mercenaries: they look for weaknesses and then turn to companies to offer their services, for a price. Others hack to force reluctant companies to take action against a certain weakness. A notable gray hat hack from 2013 got Facebook to recognize and fix a security flaw, despite previously ignoring warnings from hackers.
We can identify various types of hacking by dissecting security breaches. Individual hackers, private collectives, companies and governments perform security hacking when it serves their needs or desires. Let’s take a look at the three most common types of hacking.
Hacking for economic benefit
Lone black hat hackers and hacking collectives are often thieves. Their cybercrimes seek to steal money directly, prepare a subsequent theft by hijacking data or sell the obtained data to other cybercriminals.
If a hacker gets hold of your user credentials, or even small personal data, they may try to break your password or catch you in a phishing attack. In any case, the ultimate goal is to turn the victim’s money into the hacker’s.
Data breaches are a frequent example of hacking for financial reasons. Hackers sneak into a website’s servers, capture data about the site’s users, and then sell it. In 2017, the US credit bureau Equifax announced that it had suffered a colossal data breach that had affected more than 147 million people.
The leaked data included not just names and dates of birth, but also social security and driver’s license numbers, as well as hundreds of thousands of credit card details. The loss of so much valuable data left many customers exposed to identity theft and fraud.
Competition in some industries is so fierce that it is not surprising that companies are often willing to get their hands dirty in order to beat their rivals.
Corporate (or industrial) espionage is the commercial application of hacking , malware , phishing, and other nasty espionage techniques in order to obtain inside information from a commercial competitor; this is also known as information hacking.
Sometimes it consists of something as simple as capturing a disgruntled employee, but in other cases more technological solutions are used. In 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office indicted three people in connection with the Internet security company Boyusec (or Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited) for corporate hacking. The defendants hacked into various companies, such as Moody’s Analytics and Siemens, to obtain trade secrets and protected intellectual property.
Later, cybersecurity researchers would connect Boyusec with the Chinese hacker group APT3, or Gothic Panda, allegedly related to the Ministry of State Security of China , which is great for us to present the third part of our trilogy …
The potential rewards of security hack can be so great that even governments want to join the party.
Countries around the world are engaged in a constant game of cat and mouse, a hidden cyberwar. Everyone knows that others perform these activities, but they act surprised and offended when they are caught red-handed.
Sometimes governments (and state-sponsored hacker groups) directly attack other governments . However, the most common is to see state-supported hackers attacking corporations or institutions such as banks or national infrastructure networks .
In July 2019, Microsoft acknowledged that, over the past year, it had informed nearly 10,000 people that they had been the target of state-sponsored hacking attempts .
Most of the attacks were related to groups allegedly linked to Russia, Iran and North Korea. State-sponsored hacking is quite difficult to prove, as governments often distance themselves from those responsible through the use of intermediary groups.
Is hacking illegal?
Whether or not the hack is a cybercrime depends on one thing: consent. White hat hackers seek permission from their targets before hacking into their systems and are required to disclose any vulnerabilities they find. Outside of this context, security hacking is illegal.
Rogue hackers operate without consent and break the law. No one is going to grant permission to a hacker who kindly explains that what he is looking for is money or valuable trade secrets, so black hats always operate in the shadows. Even the gray hat hack can be dangerous if the recipient decides to report it to the authorities after the action is revealed.
It goes without saying that if you are the victim of a security hack, it is totally illegal. If something like this ever happens to you, be sure to report the scam or event immediately. In this way you can try to reduce the damage suffered, in addition to preventing future victims from going through the same thing.
With sufficient time and resources, there is no way of knowing what a skilled hacker can achieve. Many multinationals have been humiliated by motivated hackers determined to violate their security measures, no matter how strict.
However, when we consider the types of devices available in a typical home or office, some are certainly a much easier target than others. While an iPhone can be extremely rugged, the same cannot be said for many other consumer digital devices. Here is a short list of some of the most vulnerable devices you may have:
- Smart devices: Many Internet of Things devices lack the comprehensive security protections built into or available for computers and mobile devices. If a hacker gets your data in a breach, they can find a way to sneak into your smart grid and, once inside, move from one device to another.
- Routers: You’d be surprised how many people don’t change the login credentials that the router carries out of the box. You may be among them. Hackers know the factory credentials for each device and can (in fact, do) probe Wi-Fi networks to see if those credentials work.
- Webcams: If you continue to use a standalone webcam , it will have the same vulnerabilities as any other IoT device. Laptop users are also at risk from rootkits , a type of malware that can allow hackers to access a device, including its front camera, at any time. Covering the camera lens with opaque tape is never a bad idea.
- Email: Ok, not a device, but email is a common target for hackers. The passwords are constantly glide data leaks and, if used to email the same password for other services, will be opening the door wide open to hackers.
- Phones Jailbroken: iOS devices, and also Android devices to a lesser degree, but also notably, are quite resistant to hacking. If you jailbreak yours (a process by which the manufacturer’s built-in security measures are removed), you will be highly exposed to hacking if you don’t know exactly what countermeasures to take.
To prevent hackers from sneaking into your network or any of your devices, you must use a robust cybersecurity tool, such as Avast Free Antivirus . Avast employs six layers of protection, plus cloud-based artificial intelligence, to block 1.5 billion malware attacks every month. Spot weaknesses in your home Wi-Fi network, eliminate insecure passwords and settings, and avoid phishing scams and viruses – all for free.
“My account was hacked!” Whenever something goes wrong on social media , this defense is the best friend of the famous. If you are not careful with your passwords, it is very easy for a hacker to take control of one of your accounts. Once inside, they can post on your behalf, access private content, and communicate with your contacts .
Want to check if any of your email or social media accounts have been leaked? Visit our free HackCheck tool to search for leaked passwords.
How frequent is social media hacking? Search Google for “Facebook hacking”, for example, as we did to find relevant news to share in this article, and instead of getting news, you will see a list of tools to hack Facebook. Of course, we do not recommend that you repeat the experiment or visit any of the links provided.
Hacking Twitter and Instagram are also popular cybercrimes. The Twitter help page for hacked accounts recommends resetting your password as the primary solution, and this reflects the need to use a unique password for each service you use. If a hacker obtains a password, they will only be able to access that account, and no more.
How to know if I have been hacked
Depending on the type of malware the hacker uses, the signs of a hack may differ. Here is a short list of things you can see if a hacker has infiltrated one of your devices:
- Does not have access. If a hacker takes over your login credentials, they could change your password so that you can no longer access your account. In that case, immediately initiate a password reset and enable two-factor authentication (2FA), if available.
- Your device works in a different way. Does your computer or mobile device seem to have changed overnight? Have you noticed different passwords, totally different settings, new files, or strange changes to files you already have? Is your antivirus software disabled? Are there new programs or applications that start on their own? Does the webcam or microphone activate even though I am not using them? Any of these signals can point to a hacker.
- Their social networks go crazy. If your family, friends, and co-workers start to alert you that they are receiving messages from you that don’t seem normal, change their passwords immediately. The same is true if you see content on your social networks that you have not published. These are two common signs of hacking a social media account.
- The hacker tells you. A note of ransomware on your computer is a sure sign that you have been hacked. The hacker can also contact you directly to notify you that they have sneaked into your devices or that they have obtained confidential information about you. However, keep in mind that an extortion attempt could be bluffing, especially if the hacker does not show any proof that they have the compromising information they claim to have.
- Your browser has strange behavior. Many hacking tricks work through the browser . Unintentional redirects (trying to go to one page, but unintentionally getting to another) are a good sign that something weird is happening. Also, watch for toolbars and extensions that you didn’t add. In many of these cases there is malware involved.
- It is flooded by pop-ups. The adware and scareware generously use pop -up windows to get their attention. A sudden flood of pop-ups is a fanfare notice that a hacker has sneaked malware onto your device.
- Someone is stealing or wasting your money. If you see charges appear for items or services that you have not purchased, contact your financial institution immediately to freeze your accounts and credit cards. Do the same if there is a sudden drop in your bank balance. You may have been the victim of identity theft through a hacker having your data leaked.
To see if you have been hacked or if your information has been involved in a leak, consider using specialized privacy protection. Avast BreachGuard protects your private information 24/7 . We constantly analyze the dark web, where hackers buy and sell leaked personal data. If your information is detected, we will immediately contact you so that you can protect your accounts and prevent identity fraud.
Tips to prevent a hack
Hackers are like lions: they attack those targets that they identify as least capable of protecting themselves. By taking some quick preventative measures, you can make it very difficult for hackers to infiltrate your new defenses, and this will surely make them hunt for easier prey.
- Use a unique password for each account . If a hacker gets hold of one of your passwords, they only have that one. When you try it on all your other accounts, as it is a strong and unique password , you will get nothing.
- Update the software. Up-to-date software is much less vulnerable than outdated software. Use automatic update on all your devices, programs and applications.
- Don’t click on strange ads or links. Hackers can load ads with malware, a technique called “malvertising.” They can do the same for infected websites that “download” malware to your device when you visit them. Click only on things you know and trust.
- Look for HTTPS encryption. Searching for the HTTPS protocol is one of the easiest ways to check if a website is secure . If a site uses this secure protocol, you will see a small lock icon in the browser’s address bar and the URL will start with “HTTPS.” Please do not enter personal data on any site that is still using the old HTTP.
- Change the default username and password of the router and smart devices. Make it at least a little difficult for hackers to access your home network. The first step when setting up a new router or smart device should be to change the login credentials.
- Do not perform any personal operation on public equipment. Use them for generic searches and nothing else. Please do not log into your personal accounts as spyware may be on your computer.
The world of hacking is huge. There are so many methods of practicing it that there is no general remedy that will solve the whole problem. If you focus on the major hacking sources (malware and phishing), you will become a much less attractive target.
Hackers use malware to hack and hack to introduce malware to your device. Avast Free Antivirus is continually updated to protect you in real time from malware threats as they appear. It detects, blocks, and removes malware and phishing attempts, as well as alerting you to two other popular hacking vectors: unprotected Wi-Fi networks and outdated software.
Source : Avast