Cyber Attacks and Hacking: What You Need to Know

The culture of hacking has seeped into pop culture as well as real life. From Mr. Robot to the current American elections, email leaks and security breaches have become part of the regular news cycle, transforming how the general public obtains information. Last Friday, October 21st, a massive DDoS attack occurred on the domain name server provider, Dyn. This, in turn, brought down some of their largest clients, including websites like Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Reddit, and even our own VOIP phone provider.

For those in the digital industry, this is a HUGE deal. Because cyber attacks have the ability to bring down your entire business! But in order to understand this major internet security issue, it would be beneficial to get a little more understanding of how the hacking culture evolved and where it is today.

When it comes to organized cyber attacks and hacking, there are two important organizations to know about, Anonymous and Wikileaks. Here’s a very general breakdown of who they are.

Anonymous: Began in 2004 as a decentralized group of internet trolls. Gradually evolved into a term referring to groups of hacktivists, with the key of maintaining anonymity. This means that members of Anonymous may or may not know who each other are, and is consisted of many organized groups that may or may not agree on certain topics. They organize attacks on private and public institutions with an aim to obtain/redistribute information for the public good.

Wikileaks: Started by Julian Assange in 2006 as a non-profit news source to redistribute information in order to “open” the government. Their most recent leak that has brought upon massive attention are Hillary Clinton’s emails.

When it comes to cyber attacks they currently come in three main forms.

  1. Distributed denial of service campaigns (DDoS) — to override a server with traffic activity and shut the site down.
  2. Website defacements.
  3. Internal hack to obtain and leak information.

So what does all this mean to you? Well, it brings to attention a few very important emerging topics, including digital rights, internet privacy, net neutrality, information inequality and perhaps even the notion of democracy. What does it mean when a few anonymous individuals have the power to decide for the sake of the public good? Who is liable for all of our private information stored in different databases? Is there even privacy anymore?

This all sounds quite dystopic and in all honesty unsettling, and there is good reason because digital governance is something that is extremely underdeveloped. And with the growth of the digitization of the economy, this is an issue that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. So whether it’s your personal online accounts or your businesses’, here are a few suggestions in terms of keeping your information secure.

  1. Enroll in double opt-in for your accounts.
  2. Be aware of the fact that just because you sent a message to one individual doesn’t mean others won’t see it. And that it may come back to haunt you in a decade.
  3. Make sure that you check the URL to be “https” when submitting any payment or private information, this means your communications with the server is encrypted.
  4. Use different passwords for different accounts!
  5. Go old school for private information, write them down and hide it under your bed.
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