Have you ever had the experience of opening your computer to find your screensaver changed, new programs installed and hundreds of notifications in your email with messages or banners of [Kl0wnzz_3256 ownz you]? If you have then you may have to assess your network security because youve just been hacked.
Hacking is the practice of finding out a computer networks/systems weakness and exploiting it. People hack for a majority of reasons such as profit by stealing and selling information, personal protests or vendettas against the hacked and even as a form of challenge in the internet community. Hacking is growing more rampant nowadays and without a decent firewall or a basic knowledge of how to protect yourself on the internet you may soon find your computer hosting a bunch of viruses or see some very private pictures of yourself posted on the internets many image boards (i.e. Tumblr, 4chan).
Such is the need for strengthening internet security and the investment in computer firewalls and programs can save you a lot of trouble especially if you own a good business. In the business world the losses created by leaked information can lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, employee and client information compromise and a tarnished public image. If you think that you wont be a target of these malicious attacks then you might be surprised, because no one expects to be hacked and even big organizations such as Yahoo, Unicef and a number US government institutions have been hacked by various internet groups throughout the years. The growing group anonymous often called hackers on steroids has been known to take down random sites and personal accounts on a whim making sure that no one is safe.
However, even with all these threats the internet is still one of the best inventions of the 21st century that allows people free access to information, online businesses and e-commerce and of course social networking that gets you in touch with people all over. The good news is that there are ethical hackers who help beef up your internet security and help make the internet a better place for everyone.
Ethical hacking is the practice of paying a third party to try and break into your computer network by exploiting its weaknesses. Ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers or white hat hackers, evaluate your existing security, point out its weaknesses and makes recommendations to improve and solve existing problems. This may feel like a strange trade, however ethical hacking as a trade has been gaining a lot of popularity and recognition in the recent decade with ethical hackers being employed by companies and 3rd party security vendors. In some cases malicious hackers who have been caught are now employed by big businesses to create and improve programs for internet security. Even the most notorious hacker of his time, Kevin Mitnick, now runs his own security computer security consultancy.
It may seem counterintuitive that they hire people who were once hackers, but many anonymous sources claim that a number of ethical hackers started out illegally before they were certified ethical and who better to test your system than someone who used to be a threat to your security? If it helps ease your mind there are professional certifications, such as those of the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), that help ensure the trustworthiness of ethical hackers and some security companies dont employ former malicious hackers.
A good ethical hacker should be trustworthy, have great knowledge of network security and computer programming and most importantly they should be very patient, meticulous and persistent in looking for your networks weaknesses. And once you agree to the test ethical hackers deploy a no holds barred approach in assaulting your network security.
In testing ethical hackers will look at your firewall, router filters, Web servers, passwords, computers, social security awareness and even your physical security (amongst many others) at different times of day over an agreed set period. They do this by launching attacks from the internal or external internet during and after office hours, checking random computer(s)/laptop(s) passwords and even physically trying to attempt getting information by asking employees and getting into the office with fake IDs. To up the ante Ethical hackers often inform only a few people when assessing data security to know the worst case scenario over time.
Once the assessment is complete the ethical hackers give recommendations on how to strengthen existing security measures or what new systems or processes to implement. Hopefully you havent been that careless and your security is still very good, however if you want to stay on top of the game its recommended to keep updating your network security, creating personnel awareness and responsibility for security threats and doing regular audits of security systems. If you are not careful you might just be the next victim of anonymous.