By Adam King- Security Consultant at PGI Cyber
Public awareness of digital security has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. This is partially due to the increasing use of online services. Anyone without an Amazon or PayPal account these days is considered a Neanderthal. Media outlets, however, are focusing their attention on this subject and are subliminally educating society in the ways of the ‘hacker’.
Unfortunately, this stereotypical representation of a hacker presented by the media can be rather misleading, as can the perceptions of what a hacker actually does to exploit vulnerabilities in the wild. 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. 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). 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?
Hacking – in its most basic form, can be described as “someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system or computer network”. Take a moment to think about your own computer network at work; do you have remote access to this network? Have you ever been a little lazy and set a password to something like “Password123” or “123456”? Would your username be easy to guess? If the answer to all three of these questions is yes (you may be surprised how often this is the case), then the network under discussion could be easily “hacked” by anyone with a low-spec laptop.
Scared? Good. More often than not, hacking is almost too easy, and it is usually the end-user who has left the back door open. We can protect our networks and computers with the most advanced configurations and anti-virus applications available, however, lazy users will always create vulnerabilities. Education is the only way that we can fend off the mysterious “hacker” in the long-run, as a chain can only be as strong as its weakest link.
It is time to change the “hacker” image which has been adopted by society, and push forward an understanding of the importance of security rather than encouraging users to blindly follow policy and procedure. The next and most important step is to develop this security conscious society – both for personal and corporate benefit. Courses like the Cyber Security Awareness can train users in misunderstood security concepts such as hacking and social engineering. Take control of your security posture and fix the most vulnerable link in the chain; the interface between the chair and the keyboard.
Don’t become a target or victim of cybercrime. Seek the advice of the professionals such as those at PGI Cyber.