It’s a computer user’s nightmare out there, a security apocalypse. It sounds alarming because it is; especially if you have a credit card and buy stuff online, if you love playing games with paid downloadable content and if you have a business or a ranking position in the business. There are hacking news and alerts left and right; hostile states hacking other countries, organized hackers defacing websites in protest of something, hackers stealing tons of financial and contact information from various websites, private nude photos and sex videos of celebrities stolen and leaked online and the most alarming, the NSA observing your cookware purchases. Anything with a camera and connected online can be used to monitor movements. Rumored hardware-based backdoors from servers to mobiles mandated by the US-NSA or built-in by Chinese companies. We should at least be concerned. Even though technology has become more mainstream and is steadily growing more advanced, so are security threats. As long as there’s financial or political gains, black hat hackers, will continue to breach computers of individuals, businesses and governments. The question is, will technology ever be able to stay ahead of hackers or are hackers necessary for technology to keep advancing?
Technology hasn’t really stagnated in recent years, in fact, it has grown by leaps and bounds and has permeated the lives of a majority of people. We have mobile phones more powerful than supercomputers a couple of decades ago. Cameras with resolutions that when printed can result in vivid billboard-sized images. Wireless data transfer people three decades back would have considered impossible. Tiny SD cards that can store the contents of a building full of magnetic tapes. Businesses needed to grow and expand and use the internet as a medium of communication and eventually, a medium of business. What seems to have laxed however, is the need for security as well as security technologies. The advent of the internet and social media has left the world wide open, with everyone willing to reach out and touch someone leaving security to take a backseat.
But as technology advances, so do security threats. Technology has advanced so much, bringing with it more undiscovered security holes than security experts can patch. Technology with mass money-making potential gets rolled out and vulnerabilities are often discovered and addressed later. Hackers figure out these security holes and use them before they’re discovered and plugged.
Hackers now have more advanced tools at their disposal and their numbers grow steadily since learning to hack has become easier and the benefits more lucrative. With more and more businesses going online, sensitive documents transferred over the wires, people readily giving away sensitive private information to social media, hackers have more than enough motivation to breach supposedly secure institutions for money, for power or just for the fun of it. Here are a number of news and rumors about hacked systems, in case you were too occupied with Game of Thrones and cat videos.
- North Korea allegedly hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for the film, The Interview which ridicules its current ruler Kim Jong Un.
- Sony PlayStation Network and Xbox Live goes down because of DDOS attacks.
- Thousands of Sony PlayStation Network accounts were hacked by a group called Lulzsec and users were advised to change their passwords
- Major stores such as Target and Home Depot hacked for credit card information.
- Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox files for bankruptcy after more than 400 million dollars in bitcoins were stolen
- China allegedly hacked Boeing and plans various US military planes in its bid for military expansion.
- Apple’s iCloud service hacked causing several celebrities’ pictures to be leaked online
- Anonymous hacking group hacks various government sites in protest of various topics.
We, as consumers and even as free nations need to be concerned or be aware of these incidents. Jobs could disappear if our hacked companies suddenly shut down, our online game achievements could suddenly disappear or worse our games unplayable, our buying and travel habits could be hacked and used against us and our most private moments could be exposed and your webcam and game console cameras could be watching you as you read this.
With all the hacking and spying news going on, what are technology companies and governments doing about it?
- For starters, people are always advised to change their passwords regularly every time a major news about hacking is reported. Passwords are often the first entry points used by hackers when hacking into systems from outside using compatible software. Weak passwords of important employees can open up a company to hackers.
- People are advised to download or purchase the newest antivirus and antimalware versions for their computers. These days, viruses and malware are more than just an annoyance. They are often used by hackers to breach individuals and companies from the inside. Sensitive information of unsuspecting users from contacts, to passwords, to individual keystrokes are sent back to whoever authored the virus or malware. Antivirus companies continue to work to study and make solutions for every reported malware and virus as well as think of new measures to identify any strange computer activity from unidentified infections.
- People are encouraged to use new versions of operating systems and software or update their existing ones. The words zero-day and vulnerability gets mentioned a lot. That’s because software companies try to discover any vulnerabilities within their product before or as soon as hackers discover any potential holes. Sometimes hackers don’t need passwords, they can control your system remotely through these holes. Companies actually employ hackers (called white hats or security professionals) to find these holes for them thus making hackers actually necessary to advance and secure their products.
- Businesses are encouraged to purchase hardware or software firewalls to prevent hacking. It’s recommended for businesses that can afford them to buy hardware firewalls since they do most of the work in seeking their systems secure. These firewalls can be updated and configured to keep out most attacks or keep information contained.
Basically, security technology continues to advance. Several phone models now use fingerprint scanners for tighter security. Other phones and computers use patterns and image recognition as passwords which aren’t so easily hacked. Software publishers continue to discover security problems by themselves or through the help of security professionals.
In the end, hackers are needed to advance security technologies. Without hackers and their personal, malicious and financial motivations, there would be no need to keep advancing security technologies. As long as there’s something to be gained in breaching an institution’s security there will always be someone willing to break it. Technology will advanced to thwart that beginning the cycle anew.
And lastly, it’s the people who should be made aware because it’s often the human factor that hackers depend on no matter how advanced the security technologies become. For one, people need to set up more secure passwords from the online gaming console user up to company CEOs. There are still people who use simple, easy-to-guess passwords or those who don’t bother changing their very old ones. Businesses, no matter how small but use the internet need to get serious in investing on more security hardware, software and services. There are computers out there that don’t bother installing anti-viruses. Security is useless for people who don’t bother and it’s the first line of defense for those who do.