The origin of the term “hacker” goes back several decades. Originally, it referred to anyone who enjoyed tinkering with electronic devices to see how they worked and how they could be improved. Today, the term hacker is most commonly associated with someone who accesses a computer or data on a computer without permission. A hacker may also change or modify programs that cause them to operate in unintended ways.
There are different kinds of hackers. Some wear black hats, some wear white hats. Black hat hackers are the bad guys. These hackers are the ones who devise phishing schemes and malicious software (malware) with criminal or harmful intent. White hat hackers – the good guys – identify weaknesses in security systems or networks. Rather than taking advantage of the situation, they will let the administrators or company know about the problem so that it can be fixed. Many white hat hackers are paid consultants; while others do it as a hobby. For the remainder of this article, when we speak of hackers, we’re referring to the bad guys.
The trouble makers may “hack” in many different ways, but they are mainly interested in capturing personal data to use for monetary gain. If a hacker can access a private network or a person’s computer, they can steal all kinds of information, such as passwords to bank, credit card, and investment accounts.
Everyone should have first-rate security software. Nowadays, the best software protects users from social engineering tactics like phishing and prevents them from downloading viruses and spyware, all of which are used to pilfer private information.
Of course, hackers see the bigger picture and are also known to target businesses. They may break into a corporation’s network and steal or change data that can harm the company’s finances or reputation. If their hack is highly successful, they may steal data about customers as well.
Another form of hacking is often called hacktivism. This type of hacking impacts the political arena. Some hacktivists will “hack” into websites to make political statements or gain access to sensitive information and make it public. Some hacktivists feel that this is an act of civil disobedience but it is, nevertheless, illegal.
So, why would anyone bother lil’ old you when there are massive corporations filled to the brim with personal information and opportunity? Like all predators, black hat hackers go after the weakest or most vulnerable. Clearly, it is important to protect yourself and your data. And remember, it could cost you far more time and money to undo the damage after you’ve been hacked.