We are all aware that hackers exist and are capable of gaining access to systems that should generally be inaccessible. But what exactly does hacking mean? And are depictions of hacking as accurate as we think?
What Are Hackers?
What exactly are hackers? This term can carry different meanings depending on who’s using it and in what capacity they’re using it. In the general sense, a hacker is anyone who deliberately gains or tries to gain access to a system to which they do not have authorization access.
In another sense, a hacker is someone who is capable of bypassing specific security measures to gain that access. With the former definition, a social engineering expert who tricks someone into giving up their password is a hacker. But this isn’t always the common consensus.
Generally, hackers are considered nefarious or malicious individuals. But as we’ll see, this isn’t always the case. Hacking is much more nuanced and multifaceted than most people realize.
Hackers are one reason why it’s so important to use IT consulting services to improve the security of your organization. There are countless ways for cybercriminals to gain access to your systems and sensitive data, so you need to be prepared for all of them.
Myths and Misconceptions About Hacking
Now let’s take a look at some of the biggest myths and misconceptions about hacking:
- You can hack into anything by pounding on a keyboard.
Most movies and TV shows depict hacking as a creepy-looking person shrouded in dark clothing, furiously hammering away at a keyboard to gain access to a secure system. They use physical dexterity, a superb reaction time, and brute mechanical force to gain that access. For the most part, these theatrical elements are totally unnecessary, and any competent hacker laughs at this type of depiction.
- Hackers choose big targets almost exclusively.
You might think that the most prominent hackers in the world are exclusively targeting big businesses, wealthy individuals, and other potentially lucrative targets. In reality, most hackers are opportunists. They recognize that the biggest targets are often the best protected, and while smaller targets may have less of a payoff, they’re also weaker and easier to access. This is why small businesses are such a common target of cyberattacks.
- Hacking is illegal.
There are some types of hacking that are illegal, but not all general forms of hacking are. For example, if you mistakenly leave your password written on a sticky note by your desk, and someone uses that password to access your account, have they really committed a crime? The answer, in most cases, is no.
- Hacking is always bad.
We typically see hacking as a bad thing, but there’s also such a thing as “white hat hacking” (or ethical hacking). Ethical hackers use their knowledge of security systems and their technical skills to test systems and evaluate them, so their clients can fend off real attacks from unethical hackers.
- Hackers are tech geniuses.
Are all hackers technical geniuses? No. You don’t need any programming knowledge, nor any technical competency to steal someone’s password and use it to gain access to their account.
- Most hackers look shady.
Picture a hacker. Who do you see? Chances are, you hold the stereotypical image: a shady looking individual in a hoodie or other obscuring clothing. But realistically, hackers come in all shapes and sizes. Anyone can be a hacker.
- Groups of hackers congregate on the dark web.
Most people poorly understand the dark web, imagining it as a breeding ground and meeting place for the worst hackers in the world. While some hackers do utilize the dark web to sell valuable information, this isn’t always the case.
- Malware is universally destructive.
Malware comes in various forms, and not all of them are equally or universally destructive. Different types of malware serve very different purposes.
- It’s possible to prevent all hacks.
There’s no such thing as a system that’s totally hack-proof. With enough time and effort, it’s possible for a person to bypass almost any security measure.
- Security products make you safe.
There’s also a standing misconception that if you rely on enough security products, like firewalls and VPNs, you’ll be completely incapable of being hacked. But this simply isn’t true. Human error is responsible for 82 percent of data breaches – and all it takes is a small slip up to render all your other defenses functionally useless.
Hacking and cybercrime are nuanced topics that are, unfortunately, poorly understood by the general public. That’s why it’s important to work with cybersecurity experts in your business, so you can rely on dependable, professional advice and keep your systems and data safe.