Hacking refers to activities that seek to compromise digital devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and even entire networks. And while hacking might not always be for malicious purposes, nowadays most references to hacking, and hackers, characterize it/them as unlawful activity by cybercriminals—motivated by financial gain, protest, information gathering (spying), and even just for the “fun” of the challenge.
Hacking is typically technical in nature (like creating malvertising that deposits malware in a drive-by attack requiring no user interaction). But hackers can also use psychology to trick the user into clicking on a malicious attachment or providing personal data. These tactics are referred to as “social engineering.”
Types of hacking/hackers
Broadly speaking, you can say that hackers attempt to break into computers and networks for any of four reasons.
- There’s criminal financial gain, meaning the theft of credit card numbers or defrauding banking systems.
- Next, gaining street cred and burnishing one’s reputation within hacker subculture motivates some hackers as they leave their mark on websites they vandalize as proof that they pulled off the hack.
- Then there’s corporate espionage, when one company’s hackers seek to steal information on a competitor’s products and services to gain a marketplace advantage.
- Finally, entire nations engage in state-sponsored hacking to steal business and/or national intelligence, to destabilize their adversaries’ infrastructure, or even to sow discord and confusion in the target country. (There’s consensus that China and Russia have carried out such attacks, including one on Forbes.com. In addition, the recent attacks on the Democratic National Committee [DNC] made the news in a big way—especially after Microsoft says hackers accused of hacking into the Democratic National Committee have exploited previously undisclosed flaws in Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Adobe Systems’ Flash software. There are also instances of hacking courtesy of the United States government.)
There’s even another category of cybercriminals: the hacker who is politically or socially motivated for some cause. Such hacker-activists, or “hacktivists,” strive to focus public attention on an issue by garnering unflattering attention on the target—usually by making sensitive information public. For notable hacktivist groups, along with some of their more famous undertakings, see Anonymous, WikiLeaks, and LulzSec.
If your computer, tablet, or phone is at the bull’s-eye of the hacker’s target, then surround it with concentric rings of precautions.
First and foremost, download a reliable anti-malware product (or app for the phone), which can both detect and neutralize malware and block connections to malicious phishing websites. Of course, whether you’re on Windows, Android, a Mac, an iPhone, or in a business network, we recommend the layered protection of Malwarebytes for Windows, Malwarebytes for Mac, Malwarebytes for Android, Malwarebytes for Chromebook, Malwarebytes for iOS, and Malwarebytes business products.
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