Normalising the Hacker

06 Jun 2016

Normalising the Hacker

Contrary to popular belief, not every hacker spends his days hiding from sunlight behind a wall of monitors with Matrix-like binary code flying across the screen; this is simply a stereotype. The term ‘hacker’ is often misused in popular media but in its simplest form, it is used to describe someone who attempts to break into computer systems.

You only need to type ‘hacker’ into Google images to see thousands upon thousands of extremely inaccurate images (interestingly, a vast number of these contains masks or balaclavas that serve no purpose whatsoever to a hacker). What is it that gives us the impression that a hacker takes this form? Is it the mystery of the hacking group Anonymous who push forward this illusion?

The Portrayal of “hackers” in the media conjures up evil masterminds or sophisticated military units based in some secret bunker and surrounded by racks and racks of highly expensive and sophisticated equipment.  Of course, many do work for nation states, subversive or proscribed organisations or sophisticated international criminal gangs. Many hackers, however, are bored teenagers operating and experimenting out of their bedrooms or their parent’s basement or are regular self-taught criminals who find this type of crime somewhat less arduous than others.  

 Just like any opportunistic thief, these hackers would rather attempt to steal from an easy target and just like other types of criminal they rely on their victims’ naivety and carelessness.  When looking for a target, a hacker will typically choose something that will not require too much effort to attack.  It is this attitude that makes SMEs a target. However, by adopting the Cyber Essentials Scheme a small business can greatly reduce the threat. 

As with any regular criminal, if security is deemed too tight they will move on and seek out easier prey. If every person and organisation put effective cyber security into place the incidents we see on a regular basis will fall. By demystifying hackers and their mindset, they don’t seem so scary. 

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