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After coming home from a long day at school, I turn on my computer and go to the Internet to see "What's New!" Then all of a sudden I hear, "You've Got Mail!" I check my e-mail and it's a message from my friend in Alabama. It is warning me about a computer virus that is being spread, and that I should watch out. Thank goodness someone warned me about this. I said to myself, "This kind of stuff must be the work of those hackers that I hear so much about." But what exactly is a hacker, and what are they out to do?
Hackers are people who are getting into our computer systems, destroying our personal property and stealing our information. Years ago, a hacker was a person who was capable of creating elegant and or unusual uses of technology. These days, a hacker refers to a person who attempts to penetrate security systems on remote computers (Hackers 2). Not only are computer hackers causing many problems for businesses, they are also causing many problems for the average person. Hackers get in personal information and get a hold of credit card numbers, various banking accounts and financial information, and just about anything else they want to know about you. They are going to get it whether you like it or not.
Hacking, with the intent to steal or deface, is so feared in the corporate world that companies have spent $1.8 billion this year alone on computer network security products and services (Home Hackers 1). Cracking of home computers has been rare, but it is always a growing concern. Any machine connected to the Internet is potentially vulnerable, but the best targets are those with high-speed, "always on" connectors, such as cable modems or digital subscriber lines. Systems with high-speed connections are typically targeted because they are the simplest to track down. People have to realize that hacking is not a prank or a game, especially when hackers are hitting such spots as the White House site, the FBI site and the Senate site. The fines and jail time for these hackers are not very funny either. Arrests are being made and punishments can be up to life in prison and thousands, and in some cases millions of dollars in fines.
When you think of hackers, you probably think of someone who is a little older, someone who's profession is working with computers.
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Even inexperienced hackers find it very easy to break into home systems. To crack into a system, you need an IP address. The IP, or Internet protocol address changes every time you go on-line, only when you have a dial-up modem. But again, when you have an always-on modem, your IP number doesn't change. The longer you are on the Internet, the better the chance that a hacker can find you and the IP address that you are using. The tools that make it possible to detect IP addresses are what's called "vunerability scanners". People who use these tools are called "script kiddies" in hacker's terms. "They are not respected by hackers", quotes Michael Hudnack, a 16 year old former hacker (Home Hackers 52). Hudnack says that script kiddies are usually young hackers that try to get into your system to steal personal information or to deface a Web site. He also says that if there any good they will use your machine as a jumping off point to hop into at least 12 more to cover their tracks before they hack an important government or corporate system.
A hacker will try to gain control of your system by installing completely legit remote-control software, which is used in office networks to install, delete, and manage software on workers' computers. They hook up a program to your computer as well as theirs and can get into and use your computer as if it were their own. The most popular of these programs is one called Back Orifice. This one is most popular because it allows them to log into a system undetected. It is unlikely that an average consumer would install Back Orifice into their system, but they may do it without even knowing it. A hacker might set a trap by sending you an E-mail urging you to download what they say is a software update, when it is Black Orifice in disguise. When you download it, you've let your guard down.
The best thing for consumers to do is install consumer firewall software, which detects and prevents attacks. The best one on the market one is Ice's BlackICE defender (Home Hackers 54). This is a $40 download from the companies Web site.
Just to name a few "top hacks", there is the Remote access Trojan horse probe, or RAT. This is when hackers check here to see if you have installed remote-control software. If so, they can take over your PC like it were their own.
Another top hack is Nuke (AKA Blue Bomb or Blue Death). As a prank, hackers will send out data that crashes Windows 95. This usually has no long term damage.
The file-and-print-sharing hack lets everyone in your home network share files, drivers and printers, including hackers. If you have this program, then it is best to turn it off.
Here is a brief explanation of hackers. As you can see, hackers destroy property and ruin programs and systems. Businesses and individuals wish that there was something more they can do to protect themselves, but it seems that when protection or a remedy is found for these hacks, then more are invented. The hacker culture is almost working faster than the people inventing protection from hackers. So, besides getting as much protection as you can, for instance firewall software, there is really nothing else you can do but hope that it doesn't happen to you.