What do hackers actually do?
Hacking refers to activities that seek to compromise digital devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and networks. When we speak about ‘hackers’ many believe that a hacker is some sort of self taught wiz-kid or very skilled programmer that can modify computer hardware or software and gain access to information online that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Hackers are often characterized as unlawful cybercriminals who are motivated by financial gain, protest, spying or even just because they’re ‘clever’ for the fun of the challenge.
Computer hackers are usually but not limited to unauthorized people who break into computer systems in order to steal, change or destroy another person or businesses’ information. Due to their skilled knowledge and clever technical skills, they have the ability to access information that most would not want them to have access too.
Hackers attempt to break into digital devices and networks for a number of reasons, for example:
- Criminal financial gain – the theft of credit card numbers or bank details
- Corporate espionage – in order to gain marketplace advantage.
- State sponsored hacking – where entire nations engage in state-sponsored hacking to steal business and/or national intelligence information.
- Political or social motivation – think ‘activists’ of the digital world. These hackers do it for the attention regarding a specific subject.
How do hackers access your computer?
Being better connected now because of the internet makes our lives much easier however, it also poses great risk as we expose ourselves our personal and business data to cyber criminals and hackers.
One of the questions that always seems to come up is how do these hackers access our computers?
Heard of Phishing? That’s one way. Hackers create phishing emails through which they intend to steal confidential information. Usually, the email appears to have come from a well known source and tend to include content that creates urgency or panic so that you are tricked into giving out your personal details. These emails often contain links which once clicked on, take you to a fake web page and then the hackers can obtain your details. Another way is that the email may have an attachment that you need to download. As soon as you click on the download button and open the attachment a malware gets installed on your system giving the hacker complete access to your device and data.
Malware is a form of malicious software that is written with the intent of compromising a system and stealing the data available on the system. These programmers can perform a variety of functions some of which include stealing or deleting sensitive data, modifying the system’s core functionalities, and secretly tracking what you do online.
There are various ways that malware can be installed on your devices. One way is running an older or pirated version of an operating system which is not safe or updated and therefore vulnerable to attacks. Another way is by clicking on unsafe website links or installing fake/pirated software can also lead to downloading of malicious programmes.
The main types of malware come in the form of viruses, trojans, spyware and keylogger. In order to stay safe and free from malware always make sure you use legitimate antivirus software, keep your operating system updated, never download pirated apps or software and make sure you check the legitimacy of links before clicking on them.
One way to do this as a starting point is through WoT. WoT creates a secure browsing environment, showing website security icons next to every URL & provides users with reputation alerts for unsafe websites. Powered by a global community of over 140 million people, WoT also protects you while you browse, warning you when you visit dangerous sites, or come across scams, malware, phishing, rogue web stores, dangerous links, and much more.
What can hackers do with your IP address?
Hackers target on average about 10,000 devices each day. Your IP address could be used to obtain valuable information and personal details if they gain access to it.
If a hacker gains access to your PC remotely, say through the use of malware or trojan, they could be able to access all the files saved on your computer as well as your internet history. Once they have access to this they can access and manipulate your passwords, financial information and social media to name but a few.
However in order to gain access and hack into your computer through an IP address they would also need another ‘hole in the system’ What do we mean by this? They would also need for there to be open ports and some sort of malware installed and running on your machine in order for them to gain access.
If you’re connected to a public network, make sure that you select that you are on a public network and therefore, your files will not be visible and always make sure you have a firewall or security system in place on your computer to prevent this from happening.
Types of hackers
Just like there are good and bad guys in the real world, hackers are also categorized by their agenda, methodologies and skill practice. There are 3 main types of hackers and lots of others that come thereafter, that are also lesser known.
For example, White Hat Hackers. These are the ‘right guys on the dark web.’ White hat hackers also known as ethical hackers are generally the cybersecurity experts who help governments and organizations by performing penetration testing and identifying loopholes in their cybersecurity. These guys will hack into your system with the good intention of finding vulnerabilities and help you remove virus and malware from your system.
In comparison, the Black Hat Hackers are the culprits. These are the worrying type of hackers that look for vulnerabilities in PC’s, organisations and bank systems and by using any loopholes they may find, they can hack into your network and get access to your personal, business and financial information.
Gray hat hackers fall somewhere in between the two above. They may not use their skills for personal gain but they do have both good and bad intentions. For example, a gray hat hacker who hacks into an organization and finds some vulnerability may leak it over the Internet or inform the organization about it. However, a gray hat hacker may not be legally authorized to do such a thing – making him fall between both the white and black hat hackers.
Script kiddies are also known hackers, they usually download tools or use available hacking codes written by other developers and hackers. Their primary purpose is often to impress their friends or gain attention.
However, they don’t care about learning. By using off-the-shelf codes and tools, these hackers may launch some attacks without bothering for the quality of the attack. Most common cyber attacks by script kiddies might include DoS and DDoS attacks.
Green, blue and red hat hackers are also lesser known but still have relevance when looking at issues surrounding hackers online. While all three are slightly amateur; green hat hackers have a desire to learn and become big time hackers, the blue hat hackers are similar to the script kiddies and just want revenge on anyone that’s done them wrong and the red hat hackers are slightly more ruthless and work to take down the black hat hackers.
In today’s world It is essential to stay aware and vigilant to protect yourself from cyber threats and different types of hackers who may use even the smallest vulnerability in your system against you. You can learn more about the importance of online security here.