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Hacking. From mischievous to malicious.

Cyrus Nooriala
Posted by Cyrus Nooriala on May 19, 2018 11:30:00 AM

It seems that these days anyone can be a hacker. With access to YouTube for instructions and tools easily downloaded, almost anyone can imitate the basic skills in order to infiltrate sensitive data sitting on vulnerable networks.  What this has created is an environment where “hacking” has become mainstream.  Hacks can be done from nation states, all the way down to the 12 year old from his computer that is powerful enough to play the most intense games while running multiple displays.

This is part of the problem that explains why security breaches are becoming more prevalent. Just in the last few weeks there have been some high profile security breaches that have been big news. The "My fitness pal" app compromised the data of 150 million users and Delta Airlines recently warned customers that the third party chat app they use had been hacked, exposing unauthorized access to payment card information.

And it’s not going to stop there. Hackers are getting more sophisticated and are generally one step ahead of network security counter measures. Organizations should be putting plans in place to limit the damage for when their systems are breached – not if.

It’s only in recent times though, that the word "hacker" is used to mean someone who hacks onto other people’s networks in order to do harm. It didn’t start like that. Original hackers were students in the 1950s when a "hack" was simply a clever or inspired answer to a problem. Over time the word has become associated with the computer programming scene. For these early pioneers, a hack was a feat of programming prowess.

Such activities were highly regarded because they were expertly executed with a creative flair.  Those that did it were seen as pioneers.

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Apple hackers in the 1980s

Did you know that two of the biggest names in innovation – Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the entire Apple phenomenon, learning lessons from hacking in the 1980s?

Both were "phone phreaks" which means they could break into the telephone networks to make free long distance phone calls or to tap phone lines. Wozniak said many of his break-in stunts were often combined with a prank, such as when he guessed his stepson’s password for the Macintosh and made the files he found hard to access, while also scheming with his wife to leave a folder marked “from Mom.”

Wozniak also said one of his favorite pranks was coming up with a TV jammer that he secretly used to convince friends their TV sets were malfunctioning, while at the same time instructing them in outlandish ways to “fix” the problems.

White hat vs black hat hackers

We are starting to see a new type of hero emerging in popular TV dramas and films, where it’s now often the guy with the computer screen, not the muscles, that saves the world. These are the white hat hackers – those that use their skills for ethical purposes or the greater good. These white hats can help organizations identify weak spots and help determine how they need to improve their security measures against the black hat hackers – those that use their skills for malicious purposes. Simply stated and going back to the more traditional definition of a hacker, organizations need to engage those that think “outside the box”, and don’t just incorporate all the same “off the shelf” solutions that everyone else is buying.  The news headlines show how effective this approach can be.

Do you have the right network and vendor for your organization? If not, then speak to Cywest who can help you protect your information to the highest standards available.

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Topics: IT Security, Data Protection, Cyber Security, SD-N

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