How to Protect Yourself from Hackers


Who’s a Hacker?

The definition of a hacker is one that translates to different persons in different ways. It is a word that differs in meaning to different people although there is a supposed meaning in lay man’s terms which translates to a person who illegally intrudes on another person’s computer or network thereby gaining unauthorized access either for fun or financial gains. In movies, hackers are usually portrayed as some sort of geek who can either be an antagonist or protagonist as portrayed in that particular movie.

Nowadays, hackers don’t have to be bookworms or geeks who illegally break into an unsuspecting individual’s computer or network. Basically anyone can be a hacker and this is not limited to age or gender. Basically anybody, with the aid of a computer, can easily obtain simple applications/programs that can help in monitoring inflow of data and information off a computer on the same network. Usually individuals who try to do this have an ulterior motive which may be for fun, financial gains or other shady reasons.

Brief History of Hackers

To many people, a hacker is someone who from the comfort of his room manipulates computer networks and accesses other people’s vital information and also steals confidential information from another person’s computer. This stereotype isn’t entirely true as hackers were originally students like anybody.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the word “hack” meant a sophisticated approach to solving a problem among students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which actually started as a practical joke during those times. At that time in one of the most elaborate hack, a campus cop vehicle look-alike was mounted on Institute’s great dome.

As time went by, the word has been attributed different meanings with reference to the growing computer programming hub at MIT and outside it. A hack was regarded as a sophisticated problem-solving act which was met with great appraise as it blends superior creative skill and critical thinking by the students then.

Why Does A Hacker Hack?

There are different reasons why hackers do what they do. Some do it for money as there are benefits of financial gain in hacking. Others may do it for social and political campaigns using this skill to destroy important data to hurt important persons (or personalities) in order to air their grievances. A hacker that does this is usually referred to as a “cracker” as their motivation is to destabilize the security of important networks or security systems. Some hack just for fun of it as it serves as a sort of climax to them. A cracker was once quizzed by a website called “safemode.org” on why he vandalizes web servers and his response was “hacking an important site is like a drug to him which he can’t get enough of” so he does it over again. Presently, we are plagued by a new type of hacker - someone that lives close to us. On a daily basis, we have so many people downloading basic applications that lets them try to break into wifi connections. Some hackers engage in this just to listen in on what other people are doing on the web. Some other hackers do this to poach another person’s identity.

The Most Common Attacks

1. Session Hijacking

This is a type of attack whereby a hacker utilizes a package called “packet sniffer” to obtain an unsecured (unencrypted) cookie which gives access to a website. It is the act of stealing another person’s access to a website; usually done on public wireless networks which helps the hacker impersonate the real user when his session I already providing access to the website’s content. Session hijacking doesn’t give access to passwords and usernames so once the user is done surfing the web and logs out, the hacker also loses access to the user’s session.

2. DNS Spoofing

This attack occurs when there is a breach of the security of a computer whereby a particular data is compromised by replacing the original data with a malicious data via the Domain Name Server (DNS). The hacker replaces DNS records with another malicious website usually by changing the IP address of the domain name to the malicious one so that when the user tries to login to a website, the user is instead redirected to the malicious server which appears as the original website intended.

3. Man-in-the-middle Attacks

In this case, the hacker attacks the two ends of a communication; that is the sender and the receiver. A hacker can gain access to the two ends of a communication by intercepting each user’s system and tries to act as the real person at both ends. This can be achieved if the hacker logs into an unencrypted wifi. The hacker intercepts the exchange of the sender and receiver with the users unaware that their exchange has been hijacked thereby giving out sensitive information to the man posing as both the sender and the receiver which is in fact the hacker. All messages being passed is intercepted by the hacker so it gives him access to sensitive information such as bank and credit card details which later used to inflict major financial crises to the victims.

4. Smishing

This is a process in which an attacker gains access into a system via interception of data sent between a computer or smartphone and other devices by sniffing. In this type of attack, a malicious document; usually in form of virus such as Trojan can be sent to an unsuspecting user as a normal message and the user tries to access the message which proves fatal to the user’s computer or mobile phone.

5. Mass Meshing

This is a method of cyber-attack in which is known as mass SQL injection. In this type of attack, hackers contaminate websites with different types of viruses and malwares and thereby redirecting users to these dangerous websites causing fatal attacks to the users’ computer systems.

The Most Common Targets

Hackers are motivated to attack different types computer systems and networks and those listed below are the most attacked as they seem more appealing to hackers

1. Corporate Networks

Computers in a corporate organisation are often high valued targets for hackers even though a whole lot of resources are expended in securing these computers. They are usually prone to attacks because important customers’ data and sensitive company information are confined within their database which is heavily fortified with sophisticated firewalls.

2. Web Servers

These are computer systems where important websites are located. These systems usually contain sensitive data such as the financial records and details of customers. This is a very enticing system for hackers to target as they attack these systems to reveal customer information to the general public such as the Ashley Madison attack.

3. Personal Computers

Personal computers are renowned to be the most attacked computer systems as they hold important and private user information and records. They are usually prone to attacks because they don’t possess the same security structure as web servers and corporate organization’s computers and they are the most widely used computer systems apart from mobile phones. It’s the easiest to attack and requires low skill levels of hacking.

4. Tablets and Palm Top Devices

These are smaller types of computers and are easily distinguished as they are portable mobile devices which can be moved around effortlessly. They are as prone to attacks as laptops and personal computers and an attacker can easily gain access into them usually via wifi networks in public places.

How You Can Protect Yourself

In all honesty, anyone surfing the web is prone to cyber-attack as the internet is always susceptible to attacks. The need to always be prepared for such attacks cannot be over-emphasized.

Attacks such as sniffing are most devastating because firewalls and anti-virus software are unreliable.

Possessing a personal VPN can discourage sniffing attacks as a user can have important data encrypted and secure eliminating the possibility of a sniffing attack. Making your wifi privates also helps in establishing a secure VPN service to a user.