Hackers Slipping in the Back Door
Given the technological dependency of Americans today, it comes as no surprise that hackers are taking advantage of the situation. As online shopping and information storing increases, so does the number of computer savvy sharks looking to stiff your money or information. The last year in particular has been rife with hackings.
Anonymous FBI Hack
A hacking group called “Anonymous” recently stepped up to bat in the major leagues. One of their weekly campaigns is giving the FBI trouble on Fridays and on February 3rd, they intercepted Bureau agents and Scotland Yard discussing fast food. The clip of the phone conversation was posted to YouTube where the FBI verified its authenticity a short time later.
According to an article by the Global Post in late February, the National Security Agency (NSA) warned that Anonymous has the potential to become so sophisticated in their hacking that they could potentially access portions of the U.S. power grid within the next year or two. In response, Anonymous tweeted that the NSA was simply fear mongering and they had no intention of accessing the power grid.
Just last year, the news of Sony’s PlayStation Network hack sent gamers into wild panic as the network went offline for a few days. Although the Anonymous group was suspected initially, they denied responsibility and suggested that Sony was merely attempting to cover their mistake by passing on the blame to an easy target.
Because of the nature of the intrusion, it was eventually determined that a single individual was responsible for the hack and it was not a group effort. In the post by PC World, Sony seemed suspicious that the attack occurred right before the scheduled and long anticipated release of several big-name game titles (Portal 2 and SOCOM 4 for example).
Three-hundred-sixty-thousand customers of Citibank had their financial data exposed in June (as reported by Wired.com) 2011 through a relatively simple hack technique called “parameter tampering.” Though unidentified, the hackers managed to view customers’ names, contact information, and account numbers but were unable to access the more important information such as Social Security numbers, birthdates, and security codes (CVV), which could have resulted in unmentionable amounts of monetary loss on the part of the customers.
Citi assured its customers that the primary card processing system was not breached but the fact that the estimated number of those compromised by the attack was so low initially, but in reality was much higher, severely discolored the financial services corporation’s reputation. Since the breach, Citi assured consumers that it has boosted security measures considerably, though no details were released.
The most recent hacking instance took place with LinkedIn and involved 6.5 million users. The primary password database was hacked and the passwords were exposed on a hacker site. On the bright side, the Examiner explains that LinkedIn has safeguards in place to protect your password known as “hash values.” This simple term represents a rather complex concept but the important thing is to know that every password on its database has its own unique DNA of sorts, making it virtually impossible for someone to match your password with your account.
Hackers have stored in files all known values associated with simple words such as “hamburger” and LinkedIn’s hack illustrates the importance of having a semi-complex password to ensure safety. In response to the breach of their database, LinkedIn immediately warned all their users to change their password at least once.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was embarrassed to discover there was an alleged hack of his Hotmail and Dropbox account. Although the incident has not been confirmed, investigations are underway to determine the extent of the intrusion. Fox News shared a testimony from the hacker in an email correspondence with Gawker, a popular gossip source for those following entertainment, business, and media.
The anonymous hacker sent Gawker an email explaining that he had accessed Mitt Romney’s Hotmail account by correctly guessing the answer to the security question “what is your favorite pet,” which was coincidentally also his password. Furthermore, the hacker denied any affiliation with the Anonymous group and that it was their first incident of such nature. Let’s hope the presidential candidate handles national security in a wiser fashion than he did with his Hotmail account.
Based on the increase in database and system hacks over the last year or so, internet users would be well advised to double-check their privacy and security settings as well as change their password for accounts with sensitive information. For recommendations on choosing a safe password and things to avoid, check out Microsoft’s advice for details.