Chipotle Mexican Grill, Holiday Inn, Google Play, HipChat, and Youtube are but a few companies that have suffered a hack just this month. Viruses have been infiltrating computer systems, card payment systems have been hacked into, and thousands of people’s details may have been compromised. These kinds of events are not new news, but why do they keep happening?
Hackers commit crimes for a variety of reasons. According to an article in the Guardian the only requirements for entering a world of hacking are an inquisitive mind, and enough time to learn a few skills. Modern hackers are growing up in a world of internet, instant messages and videos, and an instant connection at any time of any day. According to the article, the initial attraction to hacking begins with a challenge – the thrill and entertainment of breaking through security measures that most people would find too difficult are too tempting for some. An initial challenge may lead to the hacker seeking new, and more complicated challenges, and essentially finding gold at the end of the rainbow – hacking accounts and accessing personal details can be a lucrative business. As an example, in the recent TalkTalk hack, the data and personal details of 160,000 people were accessed. Through this breach, £42 million was lost, and upon investigation two men both under the age of 25 were arrested. This hack was instigated by a 17 year old who discovered a vulnerability in TalkTalk security, and exposed it purely, he claimed, because he was “just showing off”, allowing others to exploit it.
Recently, hacker Jake Davis revealed to BBC Radio that he “was motivated by the idea as a teenager that this internet was a Utopian space, this free space, and that it shouldn’t be controlled or filtered or segmented or chopped up into little blocks then distributed out here and there but that it should be open and free and that everyone in the world should be able to use it”. Davis later became an influential member of a large black-hat hacking group, whose aim was to breach the security of various websites. It seems that the victims of such hacks may not be a consideration of the hackers. Davis stated that “there is no way the internet teaches empathy. When a person is described as a victim of computer hacking, many of these hackers wouldn’t understand [how] they could be a victim, because they’re not a real person, just lines on the internet and an avatar”.
In a survey of businesses published by the British Chambers of Commerce, one in five respondents said they had fallen victim to a cyber-attack in the previous 12 months. Perhaps this is not so surprising considering only a quarter of respondents had accreditations in any kind of cyber security. The result of cyber attacks on businesses can be significant: attacks present risks to company finances, confidence and reputation. Given that we are more aware than ever of security threats and hacks, it begs the question as to why people are not protecting themselves. According to the HMIC State of Policing Annual Assessment of 2016, research shows that the group of people most vulnerable to cyber-attacks or financial crime are those that have anti-virus software installed on their computer systems, and this is a result of assuming their systems are protected, and therefore becoming less vigilant and more likely to take risks.
There is an abundance of advice on protecting yourself from a hack. Organisations such as getsafeonline.com have suggested that people need to be wary of public WiFi spots, and making sure a WiFi connection is secure. Make sure to always log off any sites you have visited when using public WiFi and tell the device to forget the network in the future. Most importantly, change passwords regularly – a password manager like LastPass is a useful tool to help create complex passwords, and store them in a safe place. And as always, never, ever click on a link that you are not 100% sure is legitimate.