It seems every week there is another data leak or major security breach on the news. Who are these hackers responsible for these data leaks and why are they causing all these problems? In this article, we will attempt to define the different types of hackers that have evolved and demystify the reasons behind their motivations.
What is a Hacker?
When we hear the word hacker, and we immediately think of a lonesome character in a dark room typing code, surrounded by monitors as they attempt to compromise a website or business. But that is not the full picture of what hacking truly is. Some hackers do work alone, sequestered away in some dark basement. But there are also well funded, highly organized groups who exploit security weaknesses in computer systems and networks to gain unauthorized access, steal data, or cause damage.
So, not all hackers are the same. Let’s explore the different types that exist, including the good ones. Yes, there are good hackers out there!
Black Hat Hackers
Hacking for personal gain.
The most notorious type of hacker is known as a Black Hat. They are malicious folk who break into computer systems and networks with the intent to gain control of systems, steal data, or commit cybercrimes. They often use advanced hacking techniques and tools to carry out their attacks. Black hat hackers can intentionally cause serious harm to individuals, businesses, and governments. Their actions are illegal and punishable by law.
It’s important to note that online scammers typically are not hackers, although they do prey on unsuspecting users to try and steal their money or personal data.
White Hat Hackers
The good guys, keeping us secure.
Also known as ethical hackers, these individuals use their hacking skills for good. These are the good guys! They work for companies or governments to find vulnerabilities in systems and networks before malicious hackers can exploit them. White hat hackers use the same techniques and tools black hat hackers but with the goal of improving cybersecurity and preventing cyberattacks.
Some white hat hackers begin their journey as black hat hackers. At some point, they switch over to creating solutions instead of causing problems. Sometimes they are caught during their black hat days and recruited after some reform has taken place. Some companies pay big bucks to identify and eliminate bugs in their software, which can be a big draw for people with a hacking skill set.
Grey Hat Hackers
Hackers for hire.
These hackers don’t have a specific agenda, and they often operate in a gray area between black and white hat hacking. They may use their skills to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks and then alert the owners of these systems. However, they may also demand payment or other benefits in exchange for their services, which may be illegal.
In it for the thrill!
These hackers are often young and inexperienced, and they use pre-written scripts or tools to carry out their attacks. By using prewritten scripts, they are essentially training themselves to conduct more complicated attacks. Typically, they do not have a specific agenda, and their attacks are often random and aimless. However, they can still cause damage to computer systems and networks, and their actions are illegal.
In it for the cause!
Hacktivists are political or social activists who use hacking to promote their causes. They may target government websites, corporate websites, or other high-profile targets to raise awareness about their issues. Hacktivists can sometimes use illegal methods to achieve their goals, and their actions can have serious consequences. Hacktivists always have a specific purpose behind their actions, and usually do not intentionally harm the average user.
Purveyors of digital espionage and wagers of cyber warfare.
These are hackers who are sponsored by governments to carry out cyber espionage or cyber warfare. They are typically highly organized and well-funded, conducting their business on behalf of their country or sponsoring organization. Their attacks can be highly sophisticated and can target critical infrastructure, businesses, or other countries. State-sponsored hackers can cause significant damage, and their actions can lead to diplomatic tensions, and even military conflicts. State-Sponsored hackers typically do not target the average user, although they might incidentally cause harm to users with their efforts.
Understanding cybersecurity includes understanding the different types of hackers and how their actions affect us individuals and our businesses. As discussed, there are many different types of hackers, and their motivations and actions vary widely between them. While some hackers use their skills for malicious purposes, others use them for good. Although major attacks do affect us all, unless you are a high-profile person, the chances of a targeted hack against you are pretty rare. Hackers are more likely to go after bigger targets, such as companies and corporations, simply because the rewards are larger.
As these kinds of attacks become more prevalent in today’s world, be sure to change your passwords regularly. Use 2 factor authentication and biometric login wherever possible. Don’t store credit card information online and close any online or shopping accounts that you don’t use anymore to reduce your online footprint and potential attack surface.
Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised. If you are unsure if you have been victim of cybercrime, contact us and we can help you understand your options. Call us at (912)-216-4050 if you are interested in using our cybersecurity protection services for your business.
Identity theft is an unfortunate occurrence that is all too familiar with most business owners, but do those individuals know where the compromised data will end up? Often, these business owners are unaware of the virtual marketplace where stolen data is purchased and sold by cybercriminals; a place known as the “Dark Web”. An article on Lexology explores what the Dark Web is, what information is available for purchase there and how it impacts small businesses.
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web, which is not accessible through traditional search engines is often associated with a place used for illegal criminal activity. While cybercriminals tend to use the Dark Web as a place to buy and sell stolen information, there are also sites within it that do not engage in criminal activity. For many, the most appealing aspect of the Dark Web is its anonymity. Our previous article, Shining Light on the Dark Web describes this little-known section of the internet in greater detail.
What is for sale on the Dark Web?
Information sold on the Dark Web varies, and includes items such as stolen credit cards, stolen account information from financial institutions, forged real-estate documents, stolen credentials and compromised medical records. Even more alarming, the Dark Web contains subcategories allowing a criminal to search for a specific brand of credit card as well a specific location associated with that card. Not only can these criminals find individual stolen items on the Dark Web, but in some cases, entire “wallets” of compromised information are available for purchase, containing items such as a driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate and credit card information.
What is stolen personal information used for?
When stolen information is obtained by criminals, it can be used for countless activities like securing credit, mortgages, loans and tax refunds. It is also possible that a criminal could create a “synthetic identity” using stolen information and combining it with fictitious information, thus creating a new, difficult to discover identity.
Why are stolen credentials so valuable?
Stolen user names and passwords are becoming increasing popular among cybercriminals, but why? Identity thieves will often hire “account checkers” who take stolen credentials and attempt to break into various accounts across the web using those user names and passwords. The idea here is that many individuals have poor password practices and are using the same user name and password across various accounts, including business account such as banking and eCommerce. If the “account checker” is successful, the identity thief suddenly has access to multiple accounts, in some cases allowing them the opportunity to open additional accounts across financial and other services.
Why should small businesses be concerned about the Dark Web?
Since the Dark Web is a marketplace for stolen data, most personal information stolen from small businesses will end up there, creating major cause for concern. With the media so often publicizing large-scale corporate data breaches, small businesses often think they are not a target for cybercriminals, however that is not the case. Cybercriminals are far less concerned about the size of a business than they are with how vulnerable their target is. Small businesses often lack resources to effectively mitigate the risks of a cyberattack, making them a prime target for identity theft as well as other cybercrimes.
At a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conference, privacy specialists noted that information available for purchase on the Dark Web was up to twenty times more likely to come from a company who suffered a data breach that was not reported to the media. The FTC also announced at the conference that the majority of breaches investigated by the U.S. Secret Service involved small businesses rather than large corporations.
How can you reduce the risk for your small business?
To reduce the risks of a cybercriminal gaining access to your company’s information or network, you must ensure you have proper security measures in place. The FTC has a webpage that can assist with security options for businesses of any size. In addition, it is crucial that your employees are properly trained on security, including appropriate password practices.
Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised. There is minimal effort needed to protect your business when you partner with us. We will automatically monitor for your organization’s email domain on the Dark Web. If we find anything floating around out there, you can rest assured that you will be notified, and we will be there to help protect your personal and company data. When it comes to the security of your company data, we want to provide you peace of mind so you can focus on other areas of your business.
Cybersecurity is a critical and continuously growing field that focuses on protecting computer systems, networks, cyber threats, malicious activities, and much more. Now more than ever, technology is present in almost every aspect of our daily lives, and cybersecurity is an essential element of protecting people or company’s data.
The five phases of dealing with cyber-attacks:
- Threats: Cybersecurity threats come in many forms, including viruses, malware, phishing attacks, identity theft, and data breaches. Understanding these threats can help you take proactive steps to protect yourself and your information.
- Prevention: There are several measures you can take to prevent cybersecurity threats, such as using strong passwords, keeping your software and operating system up to date, and avoiding suspicious links and attachments. For more information, refer to our other security blog posts and learn some ways to stay safe online.
- Detection: It is important to monitor your computer systems and networks for signs of potential cybersecurity threats. This may involve using security software and regularly checking logs and other data for suspicious activity.
- Response: In the event of a cybersecurity breach or attack, it is important to have a plan in place for responding quickly and effectively. This may involve isolating affected systems, alerting relevant parties, and conducting a thorough investigation.
- Education: Education and training are key to preventing cybersecurity threats. It is important to stay informed about emerging threats and to educate yourself and others about best practices for staying safe online.
Cybersecurity is an ongoing process that requires vigilance, education, and the right tools and strategies to protect your computer systems, networks, and data from potential threats.
Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised. We service the Greater Savannah GA area, so contact us online or call us at 912-216-4050 if you are interested in using our cybersecurity protection services for your business.