Just who are these hackers and why do we voluntarily leave ourselves vulnerable to them?
Why do we trust digital encryptions when the computer hackers in the cybersecurity world are the same people who are creating the locks? It is like giving the company who installed your door locks extra keys and trusting that no one will break into your home.
Perhaps you could argue in years past that a hacker could only gain access to a password for an online video game, but those days are long past. Everything is attached to a digital wallet these days, so it is easy to obtain access to things far more sensitive than a gaming password.
Digital dependence is leaving our society more vulnerable than ever, and as demonstrated by the recent ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS, cybersecurity firms cannot keep pace with the constantly improving hacking community. One of the factors that makes staying ahead of hackers so difficult is determining the motivation driving the activity.
There are “Black Hat” hackers who are merely out for material gain; “White Hat” hackers who are authorized to hack into a system to find security gaps; “Grey Hats” who are not authorized to hack a system and who are not looking for financial gain, but only want to expose the weaknesses of public systems; and other hacker groups, such as Red Teams and Script Kiddies.
In 2016, Science Publishing Group posted a fascinating study entitled, “Hacker Personality Profiles Reviewed in Terms of the Big Five Personality Traits.” Although only generalizations can be drawn from the study, some of the traits exhibited by the hackers (neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, etc.,) may help authorities (even minimally) track down these individuals when a crime has been committed. At this point every bit of information available can only help in society’s efforts to shut down hackers.
In the meantime, if you are not interested in (or find yourself unable to) break your digital dependence, there are a few steps you can take to better protect yourself:
- Use your phone’s screen lock feature and always require a password or a biometric authorization such as facial recognition or fingerprint to unlock screen.
- Use different passwords.
- Do not access private information on public wi-fi networks.
- Regularly review activities on your accounts.
- Do not open files or emails from people you do not recognize. (Similarly, do not download software that you do not recognize.)
For more information on how you can protect yourself and learn more about the digital world, visit Digital Citizen Academy.