Unfortunately, hacking is one of the most constant activities of the Internet. Since the dawn of human history, crime has never been absent. Once the Internet showed up, it did not take long for crime to catch up to the new arena.
Erika Fry did some research to help us understand where all these hackers originate and what motivates them (Who Are the Hackers? Fortune 2/25/13, p. 23). She identified six main categories of hackers:
1State Sponsored Hackers. Yes, James Bond functions online as well as offline. Anytime any government deploys resources to gather intelligence, hacking may be involved. A classic case is the Stuxnet worm used to sabotage Irans nuclear centrifuge. This endeavor was supposedly the combined efforts of intelligence forces from Israel and the USA.
2Cyber-Criminals. These are the thugs who figured out it might be easier and safer to make money on their computers rather than on the streets. The typical case is the Nigerian emails we have all received flinging us an outlandish story about how and why we must reply with all our banking account information so we can enjoy a tidy sum of money. Of course, everyone who ever fell for these ploys usually had their bank account drained without any recourse.
3Hacktivists. These are the activists who have migrated online to correct perceived public wrongs. A classic case is Operation Payback. During this campaign, the Web sites of Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal were disrupted as punishment for companies that terminated WikiLeaks accounts in 2010.
4Script Kiddies. Think bored teenagers, neighborhood vandalism, and graffiti. These are the innumerable times unprotected email accounts or Web sites were invaded, dismantled, or infected with malware. Teenagers with too much time on their hands have a way of getting into trouble offline, why not online too?
5Vulnerability Brokers. These are the entities such as Vupen, Endgame, and Netragard. They see hacking as a legitimate business venture in which they aggressively identify online weaknesses and then conveniently offer that information for sale to the highest bidder. The classic case was when Vulpen last year hacked Google Chrome. Since then it has been selling the key to anyone willing to pay.
6Insiders. These are the cases of good employees gone bad. A disgruntled employee begins stealing data on a thumb drive. An employee is terminated, but capitalizes upon all his or her IT access just prior to being walked out the door. We have all heard the horror stories.
Well, now you know who all these hackers are. . . . Altogether now, Time to change our passwords!
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