Understanding the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Side of Hacking

Hacking is a neutral term that involves searching for exploitable vulnerabilities within computer systems, which can be used for good or for ill. While malicious cybercriminals often use hacking to compromise systems, cybersecurity experts utilize hacking to diagnose and improve system integrity and prevent breaches.

In this increasingly digital world, hacking and their associated data breaches are a common fear, with breaches in big-name companies compromising the data of thousands to millions of customers and causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage at the least.  Companies owe it to their customers to take steps to mitigate the threat of data breaches to their data. Cybersecurity managed services can help businesses bolster their efforts to keep their data safe from data breaches committed by the hacking efforts of cybercriminals.

Understand What Hacking is and Isn’t

Computer programming

Originally just a slang term for a computer programmer, hackers have had a complex perception in the eyes of the public, with movies alternately portraying them as heinous criminals or ragtag heroes (with varying degrees of accuracy).

The perception of hacking in popular consciousness has changed over the years, in no small part to a growing awareness of what hackers do and how they generally operate. Today's tech-literates will not automatically assume all hackers are black hat cybercriminals, though the dangers of being hacked by actual criminals remains a valid fear. They also know that modern hacking is far from just getting into a computer system from a different computer.

The Dangers of Breaching

When most people think of hackers, they think of data mining—the indiscriminate harvesting of sensitive data from business and institutional systems. Though movies are not known for their accurate portrayal of hacking, they do depict some of the many dangers posed by data mining. Jurassic Park, for instance, revealed that a disgruntled or unscrupulous employee with the right amount of tech skill could steal proprietary data that could lead to a cascading disaster for a company.

The Arsenal

Keeping cybercriminals from accessing data is an uphill battle due to the sophistication involved that often does not even need someone tapping away at a different computer. The modern cybercriminal has a complex system of hacking tools—many of which are completely unexpected to those not familiar with the nuances of network management and programming. Defending against these attacks is a critical part of a business’ cybersecurity strategy.

The modern hacker sophisticated arsenal of tools wears away at every conceivable weak point in the system. They may begin by searching the platforms themselves for vulnerability within the platform—a weakness created by an insufficient patch or a poorly updated software platform. Rather than entering the system themselves, today’s hackers are often reliant on programs to do their bidding—viruses, Trojan horses, keyloggers, and other sources of malware surreptitiously sent to potential victims.

Most insidiously, black-hat (criminal) hackers often rely on social engineering to manipulate people’s behaviors for information. They use a host of deceptive trickery from creating phishing sites and e-mails to outright impersonating tech support crew to surreptitiously mine login credentials from unsuspecting individuals.

Fighting Fire With Fire

Data Protection

Once thought to be the sole purview of mischievous pranksters and cybercriminals, hacking today is a neutral term and has been incorporated into computer parlance, and is often also used in the context of improving cybersecurity. Professional white-hat hackers are themselves often sought to pre-emptively search for possible security exploits so they can be addressed before a data breach even begins.

Employing similar techniques to their cybercriminal counterparts, these cybersecurity experts can take preventive steps against breaches and provide the necessary patches to address vulnerabilities within the system. Their findings are invaluable to cybersecurity strategies.

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