Skip to main content

What is Hacking?

Hacking can be defined as the act of gaining unauthorized access to information, computer systems and devices, along with networks.

What is Hacking

Figure 1. What is Hacking

The importance of hacking has increased dramatically in recent years. Back in the day, the average person may not have been impacted by a hacking attempt, but nowadays when everyone is so connected online and business is truly global, hacking is definitely something that people need to be thinking about frequently.

Hackers often take advantage of security lapses on part of individuals, software and even devices. To prevent hackers from having an easy time, it’s essential that people take the time to educate themselves and to prevent hacking incidents from happening.

History of Hacking

Hacking was not as glamorous back in the day as it is now.

In the 60s at MIT, the term hacker was first used to describe expert FORTRAN programmers. Hacking as we now know it today is said to have its origins in the 80s when a group called “414s” was raided by the FBI.

In the 90s, Kevin Mitnik, an infamous hacker was put to trial and the case was widely publicized.

Ever since the dotcom boom, and as people get more access to computers and the internet, hackers have made their way into the thread of society. They are a constant threat that needs to be addressed and neutralized.

What is the Biggest Hack in History?

The records for the biggest hack are always breaking given the nature of how quickly hackers are adapting to security and precautions we take.

In July of 2021, Saudi Aramco became the target of a hacking incident which resulted because of a leak from a third party contractor. A terabyte of data was leaked and a ransom of $50 million was demanded by the hackers. This became news since Saudi Aramco is one of the world’s largest companies according to revenue.

How Does Hacking Work?

Hacking takes multiple steps.

The first is educating and learning what hackers do, how do people leave vulnerabilities and how to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Hackers first need to monitor the environment that they will need to bypass to get to their objective. It can be through computer networks or in some cases, a hacker may observe people working at a certain place and find ways to physically hack into their devices.

Once the hacker has understood the environment, they will need to find a way to insert themselves in. This can be done in multiple ways, from phishing attempts to placing malicious code, etc.

Hackers can then go on to press the involved parties to give them money and blackmail them. They can also choose to just release the information to gain notoriety within their group.

What are the Features of Hacking?

Hacking is not as straightforward as normal people might imagine. There are several steps and features that need to be part of a successful hack.

The first feature of hacking attack or crime is that it needs to identify targets and monitor them. What comes next solely depends on how well a target, which may be an individual or organization, can be targeted.

The second feature of a hacking attempt is to find an entry point. Once a target has been qualified by the hacker, they then move on to infiltrate their system. This is done via a network or in some cases physically through an infected device.

The third feature of hacking is that malicious code is inserted onto the target’s system or network. This code can then cause harm to the software, information, or network. Data may also be stolen by the hacker.

The fourth and final feature of hacking is that the hacker either sells the data or ransoms it for money. They may even choose to spread word of the hack and gain recognition from their hacking peers and community.

Where is Hacking Used?

Hacking is used to gain access to information, computer systems and networks.

Hackers attempt to gain this information and access for their financial gain as well as fame and notoriety.

All manner of companies and organizations and even individuals are at risk of having their information stolen. It is all too common to see on the news that an organization has been hacked or that a database has been compromised putting thousands of people at risk.

Is Hacking a Crime?

Yes, hacking is most definitely a crime. Even if the hacker has only gained access to a system that they were not authorized to use without destroying or stealing anything , a crime has been committed.

Punishments in hacking range from the severity of the crime committed to the scale of the crime to the region or country the crime was committed from.

If you steal passwords and traffic them, you can face a year's worth of jail time up to ten years if this is your second felony.

According to the CFAA, if you obtain national security information, you can face ten years of jail time up to twenty years if this is your second felony.

Suffice to say that hacking is not something that you should even be thinking about unless it is ethical hacking.

What Are Hacking Examples?

There are different kinds of hacking incidents that can take place. Here are some hacking examples that you should be aware of:

  • Keylogging: Keylogging happens when a piece of malicious code transmits your keystrokes to hackers. This leaks all your actions and information entered to the hacker.
  • Cookie theft: Insecure websites that use HTTP instead of HTTPS end up having their user’s data stolen from cookies as it is not encrypted.
  • Phishing attacks: Phishing attacks take place when ordinary users end up giving their information to fake websites.
  • DDoS attacks: DDoS attacks happen when a legitimate user is prevented from getting access to a website as fake traffic has been used to overload the server that hosts the website.

Which Devices Can Be Hacked?

If a device has a connection to the internet, it can probably be hacked. Here is a list of devices that can be hacked:

  • Webcams: Often the cause of great harm to personal reputation, webcams are some of the most commonly hacked devices. These devices are often hacked by hackers that have somehow managed to place remove-control malware on your system.

  • Email: While not technically a device, literally everyone has an email these days. Emails can be hacked if the password is weak or if a database where credentials are stored has been compromised.

  • Routers: Routers are not only a way for you to get wifi on the go, but often serve an entry point for hackers to gain access to your network and in turn your devices and information.

  • Smart Devices: Smart devices include smartphones, Bluetooth devices, smart TVs, home assistants, tracking devices, etc. The best way to prevent your smart devices from being hacked is to limit access and update passwords frequently.

  • Jailbroken Phones: Jailbroken phones have been tampered with to give users access to privileges that the manufacturer has not given them. Jailbroken phones give full access to the Operating System (OS) that can be used by hackers to infect the device.

How to Recover Hacked Devices?

In the case that your device has been hacked, there are still some ways to see and regain access to the device.

First make sure that your device is indeed hacked. If you have an antivirus, it will tell you if there is any malicious code that you should be concerned about. If the antivirus doesn't pick up anything and you still feel that your device might be hacked, you can manually go through files on your computer and see if any suspicious files are running at the moment.

If you feel that your device is really compromised, then you should first make a backup of your data. Once that’s done, try updating the software present on your system and see if that makes a difference. If not, you might want to reinstall everything including a fresh OS install.

If these do not work, you might want to consider getting professional help and involving law enforcement.

How to Avoid Hacking?

While you may think that hackers can get access to your information, devices or networks regardless of what you do. You need to realise that there are a lot of things that you can do to avoid hacking attempts in the first place.

Here are simple ways that you can use to avoid hacking:

  • Use Unique Passwords for Different Accounts: Using different passwords for each account is pretty easy to understand. Think of it this way. Would it be safe to have a single key that can pick each and every lock at your house? Probably not. Someone trying to get in would only need a single key to access everything. Similarly, you should have unique and strong passwords to access different accounts and devices. Yes, it is a hassle, but it is one of the best ways to protect yourself from hacking.
  • HTTPS Encryption: HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure has become the default primary protocol to facilitate data transfer between web browsers and websites. HTTPS encrypts the data being transferred from the web browser and websites. This means that any hacker looking to get your credit card information will not be able to do so unless they can crack the encrypted data. To avoid hacking, only visit and enter any information on HTTPS websites. Other websites do not send their data encrypted, which makes it vulnerable to being put to use by hackers.
  • Software Update: Software updates, while annoying at times, do often come with security patches that help make your device and software safer. As software gets older, it’s vulnerabilities are exposed and become sort of common knowledge. This is the reason why it’s recommended to upgrade to or move on to another stable software version. Periodic updates help keep your system safe and mend any patches that might be present unknowingly within your software.
  • Avoid Clicking on Ads or Strange Links: Often hackers use ads that lead to questionable websites that are not secure and can cause harm to your device in the form of viruses or even result in information theft. To avoid hacking, you will need to be aware of your online activity. Do not click on any ads that seem too good to be true like a get rich scheme or are provocative.
  • Change the Default Username and Password on Your Router and Smart Devices: Default usernames and passwords can often be the same for routers and smart devices. As a consequence, any hacker or someone that wants to use free wifi, can just place in well known passwords and connect to your device or network. Change the default name and make sure that your password is strong and only known to concerned parties.

What should People do to Protect Themselves from Hacking?

There are several things that ordinary people can do to protect themselves from hacking attempts. A lot of the time, hackers rely on human negligence to carry out their nefarious actions.

If people were more aware of the impact their actions had on a system’s or device’s security they would be in a better position to protect themselves.

Firstly, people need to be educated, but then they need to take the right action to prevent hacking attempts. Here are some actions that you should do to protect yourself from hacking:

  • Install Antivirus Software: Installing a good antivirus software is the first thing that you need to do to protect yourself. There can be a number of ways that a virus can infect your system. Two of the most prominent being through the internet or coming into contact with an already infected device. If you have antivirus software installed on your system you will be able to detect these viruses (which is actually harder than it sounds given how quickly viruses are evolving) and eliminate them.
  • Use a VPN: You might have already seen an ad about using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but it is really something that you should consider using. VPNs help secure your network because they prevent hackers from analyzing the data being transmitted to and from your devices. The data is encrypted and helps provide network security. Not only this but other benefits include information privacy, data throttling, bandwidth throttling, among other benefits. While VPN does provide security, it can come at the cost of slightly slower internet speed and a bit of complexity for the average user in terms of configuration and operation.
  • Use Two-factor Authentication: Often hackers can gain access to things like your email or your name or even your password in some cases. If you are using a system that is just using these, then you are at very high risk. Two factor authentication, as the name suggests uses two factors to authenticate that the user is who they say they are. It’s a form of ID confirmation that ensures that only the person(s) authorized have access to an information or network. While it is not an be all do all, two factor authentication presents another layer of security that a hacker must crack before they gain access. This can give the related authorities time to give you an update that a hacking attempt might be taking place and it’s best to update your password and other sensitive information.
  • Brush Up on Anti-phishing Techniques: Phishing is a common way for hackers to trick people into giving up their private information. It’s a form of social engineering and a great threat to people who are not aware of their actions and the kind of online threats that are prevalent today. Anti-phishing relies on the user to make educated decisions and not to fall for any scams in the first place. Email filtering is another way to ensure that you don’t become the target of a phishing attempt. Making sure that the website is using HTTPS is another way to ensure that the site is secure.
tip

We strongly recommend blocking phishing sites on your network security solution. You may find more information about how to block phishing sites on your Zenarmor (Sensei) in What is Phishing Attack? article written by Sunny Valley Networks.

  • Do Not Login as an Admin by Default: Admin accounts are the most powerful accounts on a system as they have access to do anything on a computer. These kinds of accounts are attractive to hackers as it makes their jobs a lot easier. The only way to give potential hackers a warm welcome, choose a user account by default. Although it can still be damaging if a hacker gets access to a user account, it is a better alternative to give hackers an admin account.

What are the Systems Created to Protect From Hacking?

Hackers are always going to find ways to exploit a system. To protect systems from any malicious activity or bad intent, security systems need to be put in place.

These systems will help identify malicious activity and help barring entry to hackers who wish to infiltrate a computer system.

Here are some systems that are used to protect from the threat of hacking:

1. Firewall

A firewall is a security system that monitors the incoming and outgoing traffic on a network based on a set of rules that have already been defined.

Firewalls help provide security by monitoring a network and making sure that the traffic is not suspicious or malicious. Hackers usually try to infiltrate networks and plant their code. A firewall helps prevent this from happening.

If a computer does not have a firewall, any hacker can place malware or viruses on that device, damaging software and in some cases even hardware.

When giving exemptions to certain programs on your computer, understand the fact that you are opening a small hole in your firewall making it weaker as a whole.

2. OPNSense

OPNSense is a fork of Pfsense. It is an open source routing and firewall software.

OPNSense provides better security than Pfsense thanks to the fact that it uses HardenedBSD and provides frequent security releases.

Users can use OPNSense by it’s easy to use interface. Another thing that is important to note is that since OPNSense is open source, the community is more aware and engaged in shaping the future versions and functionality of the software.

The most important advantage of the OPNsense against other open-source firewalls is that it can be implemented as a next generation firewall by installing and configuring the Zenarmor plugin which has powerful application and web control capabilities.

OPNsense can be implemented even on the enterprise scale. Because it is a robust solution which has a wide range of features and an active open source community

3. pfSense® software

pfSense® software is a firewall or routing software that is used to act as a firewall for a network. It is based on FreeBSD, which is an operating system similar to UNIX.

There is an open source version of pfSense® software known as the pfSense® software Community Edition.

By using a web based interface, pfSense® software can be configured and upgraded without knowing much about the FreeBSD system.

pfSense® software is a flexible security solution. It is often configured as a VPN server, DHCP server, wifi access point, and DNS server. pfSense® software can be used on widely available hardware and is even cheaper than other larger solutions.

Moreover, to run your pfSense® software as a next generation firewall you may install Zenarmor on your node.

Ethical hacking as the name suggests is a form of hacking that is authorized by organizations and individuals to find vulnerabilities and exploit them in a computer system, network, software or device.

As cyber crime has come out as a monumental problem in our digital world, ethical hacking has risen to immense popularity.

Ethical hackers are hired by organizations and research institutes to improve digital security as a whole. Different professionals have varying interests and prefer to work in all kinds of areas from network security, app security, information security, etc.

Ethical hacking is often interchangeably used with white hat hacking.

While all other forms of hacking are either considered illegal or fall within an uncertain grey area, ethical hacking is perfectly legal.

There are strict contracts, laws and accountability that the work done by these professionals is completely legitimate and is ultimately beneficial for all parties involved.

What is Hacker?

For most people on the street, a hacker is a person that breaks into a security system and causes harm to individuals and organizations for their personal gains. But contrary to popular belief, there are different kinds of hackers.

Some hackers work toward creating a more stable digital environment and are actually not bad guys. While others are more interested in causing harm and exploiting people.

What Are the Types of Hackers?

There are different types of hackers depending on the kind of work they do and the sort of activities they are commonly associated with. We will be discussing six different types of hackers and whether it is legal to be that particular kind of hacker.

Types of hackers

Figure 2. Types of hackers

1. White Hat Hackers

White hat hackers get their name from the whitelisted practices and procedures they follow. These are the good hackers that help make organizations and software products and services secure against malicious actors.

Becoming a white hat hacker is an awesome career path. It has become a critical role that organizations are willing to pay a lot for. Not only that, but there is so much to learn that you will have a very enjoyable and motivating career.

In a lot of cases, white hat hackers are highly educated academics and researchers that work to improve security systems, develop new security tools and protocols, and follow the legal procedures.

2. Black Hat Hackers

Black hat hackers are the bad guys. They are involved in all sorts of malicious activities that may cause harm to individuals and organizations.

They are the first type of hacker that comes to mind. They have a wealth of knowledge in finding vulnerabilities within a system which they exploit for their own agendas and personal gains, both in terms of monetary benefits and fame.

Being a black hat hacker is most certainly illegal and these practices should be avoided.

3. Grey Hat Hackers

Grey hat hackers fall between white hat and black hat hackers.

They are neither good nor bad, but generally their intentions are not to harm other people and entities.

The most common activities grey hat hackers do include conducting surveillance on a website and finding vulnerabilities without consent. These hackers prefer exposing security vulnerabilities instead of causing damage or harm.

Grey hat hackers can be commissioned to explore different products and be paid for their services.

As the name suggests, grey hat hackers sort of fall in a grey area. What they are doing is not completely wrong or right. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to cross over to white hacking.

4. Green Hat Hackers

Green hat hackers get their name from the word greenhorn. These hackers are new to the world of hacking and have no to very limited experience in actual hacking.

These hackers are curious about hacking and are fascinated by the people who are able to do so. Green hat hackers are often trying to make a name for themselves within different hacking communities. Oftentimes they end up being responsible for major harm.

Green hat hackers are not aware of the impact their actions might have on other people and how they can face charges if they are caught by authorities.

Everyone starts somewhere. If green hat hackers educate themselves and take the white hacker route, they can become legitimate professionals. But if they opt to take other nefarious paths, they will most certainly be dabbling in illegal activities.

5.Red Hat Hackers

Red hat hackers are called red hats because they often take extreme measures and aggressively go after bad hackers.

They take matters into their own hands, and often use malicious means including viruses, malware, etc. to attack black hat hackers and force them into a corner.

Generally speaking, red hat hackers can be good or bad, but that depends on who you are asking. At best they are vigilantes that do not follow the law but for good reasons.

Red hat hackers are experts at what they do as they are working against other professionals that are able to carry out the same sort of attacks.

6. Blue Hat Hackers

Within blue hat hackers there are two different groups.

The first kind of blue hat hackers are responsible for carrying out revenge attacks. These are often people who are motivated to act against a single party or individual. These sort of hackers are committing felonies in most cases.

The second kind of blue hat hackers are security professionals outside of an organization who are asked to test the security of different products. Microsoft developers meet these blue hat hackers in an invite only conference by Windows Synder.

The main goal of the second kind of blue hat hackers is to find vulnerabilities and bugs before a product is launched.