The Evolution of Hacking

by Modis on November 15, 2017

evolution of hackingOur professional world is more digitally connected than ever before. The Internet is everywhere, from pocket devices and personal computers to automobiles and everyday household devices. All of the benefits of having cutting edge technology at our fingertips also come with their own set of new vulnerabilities and a heightened risk of becoming targeted by hackers.

To better understand the emerging cybersecurity threats we face today and help prevent catastrophic breaches from inhibiting vital businesses infrastructure in the future, it’s worth first looking back at how the nature of hacking has shifted over the last few decades.

How Hacking Has Evolved

Hackers have come a long way from the early days of “phreaking” phones to score free long-distance calls and infiltrating remote computer systems to play anti-authoritarian pranks for bragging rights. The first wave of hackers were far more benign than today’s cyber criminals. Back in the 1970s, it was more about curiosity and pushing boundaries than committing crimes, but that changed as the world grew more connected and technology dependent into the 80s, 90s, and beyond.

The severity of cybercrimes rapidly escalated with the arrival of the Internet and the rise of personal computers. Ever-increasing global connectivity gave hackers more opportunities to branch out and aspire to greater challenges, making financial gain a more alluring pursuit. This shift away from covert exploration towards a focus on making money has put a potential bullseye on a much wider range of targets — the entire Internet and anyone (or anything) connected to it.

Modern hacking threats are far more dangerous now that the Internet and technology is so heavily intertwined with our daily personal and professional lives. Everything from banking and business accounts to shopping and social exchanges have moved to the web in recent decades. For hackers, there are several ways to capture sensitive data and no shortage of places to look for their next hit. Bank fraud, identity theft, and other data critical breaches impact everyone from major corporations to private citizens, and the broadening range of attacks can yield catastrophic results.

Ransomware is just one example of a newer wave of emerging cyber threats. This year’s WannaCry virus, which locked users out of their computer until they paid a Bitcoin ransom, then used a worm to rapidly spread and infect other networks, amply proved just how insidious and this evolution can be.

Personal computers aren’t the only easy targets anymore, either. Smartphones are omnipresent in today’s “always connected” society, providing easy pickings for mobile-savvy hackers. Even cars are coming under fire, now that many newer models use wireless starters and come pre-loaded with Internet capabilities. With Internet capabilities embedded in more and more devices, the threat is only going to escalate in the years to come.

Hacker Targets and Motivation

Financial profit remains a significant incentive for many hackers, but there are numerous other motivations behind data breaches. Here’s a quick look at some other common things hackers can be after when infiltrating your system and what spurs these attacks.

1) Identity theft. Credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other personal information can be used in a lot of damaging ways.

2) Capturing and leaking sensitive information. Accessing sensitive company memos and internal emails, then leaking them to the public can be a powerful tool for institutional and political disruption. Russian hackers working to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election is a perfect example of this.

3) Server or service disruption. DDOS attacks have become a favored method of taking down major websites and throwing a wrench in major online services.

4) Vandalism. Defacing a company website or seeding subversive content through other online media channels can be politically or personally motivated, and it’s another way hackers can cause damage to reputations and business.

Are you eager to find out more about how to enhance your data security and prevent unwanted intrusions from impacting your business and personal life? Check out our white paper, Rebuilding From a Cybersecurity Breach, for tons of helpful tips and information on what to do if you experience being hacked.

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