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What is Hacking?

Hacking is a popular term that denotes the action of a nefarious actor in an attempt to gain unwanted access to a system. In a simpler way of wording it, this is the process of a person attempting to break into a machine or account to do some malicious activity. This isn't something limited to just the Internet either as hacking is something that can occur offline as well if the bad actor can gain physical access to your machine or account. In most scenarios, hackers do these actions to either access a user's private information such as their bank/credit card information or to use the user's account/machine in some other nefarious actions such as a zombie in a DDoS attack.

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Types of Hacking

There are a variety of ways a malicious hacker can gain access to a person's private or personal machine. One of these is cross-site scripting; the process of a user on a website or form entering unexpected information into a textbox to perform unexpected behaviour. Typically, the hacker would input the actual code into the form and if the site admin or designer did not properly ensure that all user input is sanitized, the hacker's inputted code could cause some unexpected action to occur or allow them access into some deeper level of the website. This can also lead to an buffer overflow attack which is a type of attack that forces a variable in a program to be bigger than expected. This then can cause the program to crash or to produce undesired effects such as miscalculations to give a user a bigger number than expected.

Another common type of hacking is known as man-in-the-middle attacks. In this scenario, the hacker sets up a machine to appear as if the intended recipient of data being sent across a network. The hacker can then alter the contents of the data before sending it to the correct user or they can be content with simply saving all of the information and effectively act as a packet sniffer.

A backdoor is another means of hacking that doesn't even require the use of an internet connection. This type of hacking is the use of a program on a user's system, typically located near the system's core kernel files, that allows the hacker unbridled access to the user's entire machine. As the key part of this is to ensure the victim's computer has the program on it, the hacker doesn't necessarily need to trick the user into doing this, but could also achieve this by getting physical access to the machine and using a USB stick to download the backdoor program onto the machine. This, in turn, can allow the hacker to control the machine as a zombie to either perform a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) on some internet service. This is a type of attack that brings down the functionality of some internet service hosted by a company's server to inconvenience the company's clients. A backdoor can also lead way for malware or ransomware in particular, where the hacker can lock access to the victim's machine and demand that the victim pay a fee to regain access.

Social media account hacking is possibly one of the more common types that occur in the modern world because of how prominent social media now exists. In these scenarios, the bad actor has either cracked a user password after gaining access to it from a fake website; an attack called a phishing attack. These websites look almost identical to the real website the user intends to use but they have a different domain name. Once the victim enters their credentials on these fake websites; the hacker documents it and then uses it on the real website to gain access to the victim's account.

A keylogger is another program which a hacker might use to gain access to a victim's account. This program simply tracks a user's keystrokes as they type, making it possible for the hacker to acquire a user's password or card information to then be used for their own gains.

These described above are some of the methods a hacker can gain access to a user's account or machine and because the world of technology is constantly moving forward, there is no doubt that as time goes forward, there will be more tools and methods available for hackers to use.

Security Measures against Hacking

Despite the aforementioned truths about hacking and technology going hand in hand as more innovations are made, that does not mean there are no security measures that will also come about as well. As a matter of fact, there are already quite a few means today that are at your disposal to ensure your account information and the machine is safe and not compromised:

  • Practice using strong and unique passwords on all of your accounts. Writing them down into a book is a good idea or even using a password manager program.
  • Practice of using 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) on all accounts offering it especially financial accounts like banks. Having multi-factor authentication prevents a lost password worry-free. A hacker will require another form of authentication (in addition to a password) to gain access to your account.
  • When accessing websites that require sensitive information, ensure that the URL of that website is the correct one and is secured with HTTPs (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).
  • Be wary of clicking misleading advertisements on websites while browsing the internet. Some of these advertisements might present themselves as the intended button to download an application or demand that you download some application to proceed but instead, only makes you download a nefarious program onto your machine.
  • Ensure your built/designed websites and programs properly conform to best practices for the development of such services. This involves sanitizing user input and ensuring all variables receiving user input do not cause an overflow buffer.
  • Perform a system check on your machine every so often to ensure no malicious programs are on it. This can be achieved through an anti-virus, however; most machines today come built-in with some type of disc scan functionality that can perform these checks for you.

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