A computer crime is an illegal activity that is undertaken or facilitated by the use of a computer system. The computer acts as a primary tool of commission for the crime alongside the internet, network utility or information system (Rouse, 2015). Computer crime also encompasses instances in which the computer is the target of a crime. The main aim of a computer crime is to access data, damaging the functionality of a system, committing fraud and infiltrating a system. The categories of computer crime include hacking, phishing, cyber-stalking, identity theft, cyber bullying, piracy, malicious software, cyber terrorism, and electronic vandalism. Hacking is the illegal act of accessing a personal or organizational computer system with the aim of obtaining confidential information or disrupting activities. Hacking also involves the attempts to circumvent or sidestep the security structure of a computer system or network utility. A person who engages in hacking activities is referred to as a hacker (Caroll 2014, pp.64). Hackers require extensive knowledge of computer systems, programming, cyber security and networking in order to undertake hacking. The motivations for hacking are varied and differ from one hacker to the next. The paper will examine the art of hacking, the motivations behind hackers and the consequences of hacking. The paper will also explore the reasons for the prevalence of hacking and the steps the society should implement to curb hacking.
Current Statistics on Hacking
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Over the years, the incidents of hacking have continued to increase. Hacking activities began to gain prominence in the 1980s and 1990s and have been rising ever since. In modern times, people are using computers and the internet to carry out various activities such as social interactions, shopping and banking thereby leading to a higher threat of hacking. Hacking is a prevalent occurrence all around the world. Although it is challenging to ascertain the exact extent and impact of hacking, various organizations have provided crucial statistics on the issue. Pagliery, writing for CNN, states that in 2014, around half of all adult internet users had some of their information accessed or exposed by hackers (Pagliery, 2014). The main types of information that were targeted by hackers included credit card details, phone numbers, email passwords, social security numbers, date of birth and bank account details. Other information that was targeted by hackers included physical addresses and security questions. Almost a third of all social media users were susceptible to a breach of confidentiality by hackers. Over 400 million user accounts were hacked in 2014 alone (Pagliery, 2014).
Companies and organizations are also vulnerable to computer crimes. Firms that operate through a computer network or on the internet are susceptible to hacking attacks. The companies that were mostly targeted by hackers were in the financial sector (Perlroth, 2013). Businesses that engaged in online retailing and information processing were all targets of hacking. Restaurants, manufacturing firms, news outlets, and transport companies were also targeted by hackers. Large organizations and small organizations were equally prone to incidents of computer crime (Perlroth, 2013). The attacks were undertaken with the goal of gaining unauthorized access to confidential company data, financial data, private individual information and trade secrets. Several companies lost millions of dollars as a result of hacking activities (Bennett, 2014). Government systems and websites are also a common target for hackers. Government systems were hacked with the objective of gaining access to sensitive data, to disrupt services or to obtain information about public officials. Military systems and networks faced a constant threat of hacking because of the critical information stored in such utilities. There was an surge in the number of hackers from one country targeting the government websites, networks, and databases of rival countries (Perlroth, 2013).
Individuals were also susceptible to attacks by hackers on their mobile devices. Around 19% of mobile phone users faced a threat of hacking while using their phones on the internet (Garnaeva et al. 2014, pp.4). The attacks were aimed at social media and online shopping applications. Other components of mobile devices that were hacked included contacts, messages, emails and media galleries. Devices with the Android mobile operating system were more likely to be targeted than other mobile operating systems. The countries in which users were most vulnerable to hacking include Russia, Japan, Germany, USA and the UK (Garnaeva et al. 2014, pp.15). In 2014, over 35% of personal computers were hacked into or faced threat of hacking while connected to the internet. Users without installed firewalls, antivirus or anti-phishing software were ten times more likely to have their computers hacked. Microsoft users were the most vulnerable to hacking attacks in 2014 (Garnaeva et al. 2014, pp.20-22). Apple’s Mac OS users were less susceptible to cybercrime than Microsoft users. The statistics indicate that hacking is a prevalent vice in society. People are exposed to the threat of hacking anytime they access the internet through their phones or personal computers. Private organizations, government agencies, and military systems were also vulnerable to hacking (Perlroth, 2013).
How hacking is carried out
Hacking is a complicated process undertaken by people who possess vast knowledge about the operations of computer systems and networks. There are various ways in which hackers accomplish their mission.
Identifying the Target
The first step undertaken by the hacker is to identify the computer system, website or network that they will attempt to infiltrate. The choice of the utility is influenced by various factors such as the type of information it holds, the form of security system in place, the size of the network, and the possibility of early detection (Stallings & & Brown 2008, pp.122-124). Computer systems that have been hacked in the past have a high probability of being targeted again. The next step is to study the system or network. This phase involves learning how users log in, the details needed to access various components of the system and the type of security in place. The hacker attempts to understand the validation and verification procedures in the system. The hacker then explores the types of antivirus or firewall programs installed on the network (Pieprzyk, Hardjono, & Seberry 2013, pp.54).
Identifying Vulnerability in the System
After understanding the system, the hacker searches for any vulnerability in the computer or network. Computer vulnerability is a flaw in the computer system which creates a security loophole that can be exploited by hackers or malicious software programs. Such defects are as a result of errors in the software programs, poor authorization and validation procedures or the presence of malicious software programs in a system (Caroll 2014, pp.66). Vulnerabilities also include internet protocols, security and network security procedures that are of low reliability. Hackers identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited to access confidential data or corrupt the integrity of a computer system. Hackers identify vulnerabilities through keen reviewing of the information flow in the system or network (Eastomm 2012, pp142). The review enables the hacker to identify components of the system where security is poor. Hackers can also detect such defects by a trial and error method. In trial and error, the hacker sends anonymous instructions to the system and then observes how the system responds to the instructions. If hackers have access to the application code, they can undertake reverse engineering on the code to recognize defects (Stallings & & Brown 2008, pp.124-125).
Transmitting Malicious Software
After identifying the vulnerability, the hacker will then introduce various malware programs into the computer system or network utility. A malware is a program that is intended to damage a computer or alter its mode of operation. A malware can also be used by hackers to disrupt the normal operations of a system. Malware programs are designed to operate on a computer without detection by the security system (Caroll 2014, pp.66-68). Some examples of malware include viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, worms, rootkits, key loggers, and backdoors. Malicious software is introduced into a system through websites, spam emails or through peer-to-peer connections.
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