Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Netspionage: the cost of internet hacking...

Two years ago, a fifteen-year-old boy logged onto the Internet under the alias 'Comrade'. To some of us, our idea of hacking might include breaking into an email account or viewing confidential company information. However, no one expected that 'Comrade' would cause a three-week shutdown at NASA, steal government email passwords, cut off over 3000 emails and download close to $2 million worth of software used to operate the international space station. If that was not shocking enough, he had twice gained access to the computers used by the Pentagon to monitor threats of nuclear and biological warfare.
Millions of programmed information all around the world all went through this way called the cyberspace. And it is never impossible that even the most private information can be illegally accessed or what we termed as being hacked. But the question is; what is hacking, who is at risk and what should we do to avoid this illegal activity?

Hacking can be defined as the process of gaining unauthorized access to a computer or computerized system and the information it contains. Both corporate and home users can be at risk of hacking. Everybody from home internet users to office can be a victim. The risk to home users from hacking is growing. Until recently, the use of conventional dial-up modems meant that users tend to be connected to the Internet for short periods of time. However, broadband and cable connections, which systems are permanently connected to the Internet, make it easier for hackers to be aware that you are online and will attempt to gain access to your system. Faster connections can also make it easier to transfer information from your system very quickly. Some viruses are known as ‘Trojan Horses’ or ‘Trojans’. Once installed these will open a ‘back door’ to your computer and notify the sender. The sender can then accesses your computer and open, delete or copy files from it without your knowledge.

If we can remember way back the year 2000, one computer science student was caught because of an ‘I Love You’ virus that he spreads on the internet. It reached a total of $10,000,000,000 damages that it caused in the United States. The Federal Burue of Investigation or FBI even joined the investigation. But the virus suspect was acquitted, because during that time there is not yet law that imprisons internet criminals.

Crime of the future is the termed used by the authorities on the criminal acts made in the internet. According to Atty. Efren Meneses, the head in the NBI Anti-fraud & Computer Crimes Division, sometime in the year 2000 they already sent a request to the FBI about the investigation of what they termed as white-collared jobs or the crimes of the future which is now the internet fraud or cyber crimes.

Because of the damages made by the ‘I Love You’ virus there is already a law against internet crimes. Atty. Meneses also added that after the ‘I Love You’ virus, there were already eight to ten filed cases with regards to the violation of the law. There is an assigned punishment from 100,000 pesos up and an imprisonment from six months to three years to whomever hackers caught. Even though it is hard and this crime is new for the NBI agents, they are optimistic that they can catch most if not all internet criminals.

According to Jerry, a computer analyst, new virus or computer programs are being born around the world everyday. And within a wink of an eye it can already spread as fast as bullets with the aid of the internet. Jerry believes that it would be better to be careful and be preventive than to regret at the end. In relation to this, he shared some simple yet very useful steps you can take to help protect your computer and the information it contains. First is to use a “firewall”, a piece of hardware or software that blocks unauthorized access to your system. Software versions can be found on the Internet, and many computer magazines feature software in their cover CDs. It is also necessary not to leave any files that contain sensitive information – for example, your bank details - where they could easily be found by someone hacking your system. And make sure you are running the latest versions of any software that acts as a server.

Remember as long as your system is switched on and connected to the Internet, it could be at risk of being hacked. You don’t have to actively be using your system for it to be vulnerable. As with other Internet crimes, the best cure is prevention. If you have been the victim of a hacker you may not realize until any sensitive information stored on your system has been put to use. Still, hackers will gain access. If a fifteen year old can shutdown NASA, should we expect more?

Viruses, shutdowns, crashes and email hacking will be the burden of the user, a company losing money because of internet theft will be the burden of its customer and the government’s money spent on the security system will be our burden, the nation’s citizen.

Is there anyone affected by internet crime? No one, everyone is affected.

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