Is hacking becoming a bigger problem every year or are we now more aware of something that has been there since the birth of the internet? I don’t have any statistics to hand on this but it feels like cyber crime and hacking are becoming more of an issue by the day. Or perhaps the real issue is the type of hacking and online criminality that we see today?
Back in the early days of the internet hackers really did tend to fit the stereotypical image that many people have today – nerdy teens sitting in a darkened bedroom writing viruses for fun. Nowadays things are somewhat different with Anonymous groups who are making a point whilst looking for their Lulz.
In the past when we spoke of online criminals we probably pigeon holed them as hackers, crackers, script kiddies and the like. Whilst most of those types of people can still be found, there are now new types of groups coming to the fore who have entirely different motivations – organised criminals, hacktivists and state sponsored hackers. Each of these poses a different type of threat of which some are more obvious than others –
In the past hackers used to be quite solitary, at least when they were going about their business of hacking. They tended to write viruses for fun or break into computer systems simply because they saw it as a challenge. Over recent years, however, individuals with hacking skills have tended to form more organised groups whose primary motivation is to make money. The code they create is no longer designed to crash your computer, leave messages on your display or show an ambulance crossing your screen.
Instead, they create malware that is designed to steal your identity, acquire your credit card details, pilfer your online banking account or trick you into buying fake security software.
Hacktivist groups tend to encompass like minded people who have a point to make. They want to make a political statement or raise awareness of some specific issue. With that in mind they may look to unleash chaos and mayhem against certain demographics on the web, such as companies within a certain field. When they damage such a company, or DDoS their site, they will be undoubtedly jump on Twitter to ensure that the whole world hears about it straight away.
Sometimes the hacktivist’s targets and the point they are trying to make are obvious, at least at first. From what I’ve seen, though, some of these guys tend to lose focus for whatever reason and get distracted by other targets. Maybe they like new challenges, or perhaps the notoriety and publicity they receive goes to their heads?
State sponsored hackers
Finally, there are the nation state hackers. You’ll forget about these guys after reading this article because they don’t really exist. Got that? They don’t exist. They don’t do anything. And they never attack other nations. We know this because they are never mentioned in the media or by politicians. Therefore they cannot exist. Besides, your country would never employ hackers to steal secrets from another would they? Of course not.
But, if they did, then they would be a scary proposition. State sponsored hackers, if they existed, would possibly tap into electricity grids, nuclear power stations and such like. They would steal plans and other valuable data from the enemy, though you would never get to know about it. Nation state hackers would never disclose what they had done. They would be the uber hackers of the 21st century.
Just as well they don’t exist then huh?