Hacking, cracking & internet security

A commonly asked question is can you get me the password for Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo…? The answer to the question is yes I can and due to the frequency that this question is asked I thought that it is a topic that needed discussing.  In order to protect oneself online, there are some simple measures that you can take, however many people do not seek to protect themselves very well at all.

Firewalls and Anti-Virus software will go some way towards protecting you and I think, lead people into a false sense of security. But these developers are in a constant circle of one up-man-ship with those who have the ability to bypass such systems. It is really a question of who is in the lead today? Or right at this minute? Do you pay attention to how often your anti virus has to update itself? If set up correctly, it does it constantly. What does that tell you?

There is more than one way to skin a cat and the area of internet security becomes more and more complex as weaknesses are exploited in hardware that we all use to connect to the outside world. Routers, ports, servers and so on are all things we use every day but many of do not even know what these things are.

A computer is the one piece of equipment that people buy that they do not know how to operate properly. You wouldn’t try to use your home entertainment system without correct installation and several manuals to guide you through how it all works and fits together and yet people are willing to risk their personal and information and expose themselves to all kinds of risk because they do not take the time to do a little reading to understand what their computer is actually doing and how the information they send in emails gets from A to B.

Now, the simple truth is that if someone wants to get in to your computer they probably can, if they know what they are doing but this level of hacking is normally targeted at an individual for a reason because it is complicated and time consuming and so generally the average Joe is not likely to experience a hack of this calibre from a determined hacker but even with that said, it is simply not wise to assume that because you think that no one wants to get into your system specifically, you are safe from the whole range of attack that falls underneath this level of infiltration.

It is a very common mis-conception that Mac computers are immune to infiltration by a third party and this leads to an incorrect sense of security as I can tell you that it is an absolute fallacy. Mac computers are still computers connected to the same servers and routers that PC’s are and although PC computers are much more easy to attack, Macs are certainly not immune.

To give an idea of the realm of possibility, it would take someone who knew what they were doing about 5 minutes to remotely access a computer on the other side of the world and start recording ALL the activity taking place on that machine and delivering in secretly back to the hacker without the user having any idea that they were being watched. It is even possible to melt the hard drive if one was so maliciously inclined. The owner could even search through the applications and processes running on their system and STILL never know that there was someone there. Hackers constantly develop encryption tools that are renewed so frequently the anti virus programs can not keep up with them and its that encryption that keeps them undetectable on the computers system.

So what can you do? Well this topic is so vast that is simply not possible to cover here. Its down to you. It’s YOUR responsibility to protect yourself and if you don’t, then that is a decision you should make with a lot of thought.

There are many things you can do to make things more tricky for a hacker. I am amazed and the range of freely available tools that are sitting there online for you to use but so few people actually bother to use them! I recommend you do yourself a favour and spend sometime educating yourself as to how your computer and the internet actually work. How does it connect to the outside world and by doing this you will start to understand it’s vulnerabilities. Type “Internet Security Tools” into Google and with a little poking about you will soon uncover plenty of little tweaks that will go a long way to keeping your computer safe. There are a lot of companies like AVG or Norton that offer Internet Security Packages. I do not recommend these as all they are is a collection of generic tools that are in widespread use and hackers know how to get through them. Find your own tools, make you own tool box and you will, after a while see what works for you and what doesn’t.

Think about your IP address that is sent out over the internet screaming “I’m over here!!” to all and sundry everytime you send an email. Consider how your information is travelling from A to B (what IS that box in the corner with flashing lights on doing? Then where does it go and via what and where. How does that information actually leave my computer. An average computer can have up to 65,535 ports and thats a normal figure! That’s a lot of entrances and exits! A hacker can spoof their computer so your router thinks their computer is actually yours so how do you prevent them being able to do that in the first place?

Yes I know it all seems like a lot of work but as I said before, it is probably the only piece of high tech equipment that you own that you don’t really know what it does. So go and find out. You may thank yourself for it later…