What Is Anti Hacking?
By Clare Edwards
In the context of computer security, hacking refers to breaking into computer systems to steal data or disrupt the system in some way. "Anti-Hacking" is a general term given to the protection of computer systems from intrusion by unauthorized individuals or groups. It can include software and hardware firewalls, anti-malware software utilities and good security practices. The latter includes keeping passwords safe, securing wireless networks and using encryption for sensitive data.
Threats from Hacking
Most hacking is now accomplished automatically through the use of malicious software. Networks of hijacked computers, called "botnets," are used to conduct large numbers of attacks in order to steal personal information for identity theft and fraud. Targeted hacking may be a concern for larger companies. For example, companies involved in research and development may be hacked for purposes of industrial espionage.
Hardware and Software Firewalls
A firewall is designed to prevent the spread of destructive agents by filtering network transmissions. Firewalls consist of hardware or software devices that can allow or deny transmissions based on a pre-defined set of criteria. Operating systems may come with a software firewall. Routers are used to pass data between a computer an the Internet or between networks and these often contain protective hardware components.
Malware, meaning malicious software, is used to gain unauthorized access and control of a computer system. Malware can be transmitted via email, by browsing the net or via an infected storage device. Windows PCs are especially vulnerable to malware but Macs are increasingly a target. Properly used, anti-virus and anti-trojan software can prevent infection from occurring, detect malware that is already present and remove infections. Operating system vendors regularly release security updates, so make sure that these are kept up to date, as well.
Strong passwords are at least eight and preferably 12 characters long and consist not just of letters and numbers but symbols and punctuation marks. The strongest password will not help if it is given away. However, hackers can use tactics called social engineering to persuade others to give up their passwords. Phishing describes the use of email to secure passwords by posing as a trusted organization. Hackers may also telephone people with security access, perhaps posing as a distraught user or angry CEO, demanding to be given identities and passwords so that they can log onto a sensitive account. Awareness of social engineering is a crucial anti-hacking tool.
Encryption is a means of disguising data, transforming it into unintelligible code using a mathematical algorithm. Encrypted data can only be read by someone with the right encryption key. If sensitive data is stored or transmitted unencrypted, it can be read by a hacker. Encryption software can make this much more difficult -- all but impossible, in some cases. As well as being a useful anti-hacking measure, encryption can also protect data if a mobile device or storage device containing the data should be lost.
Email can be used to secure passwords by deception, and also to also spread malware that compromises security. Many viruses, worms and trojans are spread via email attachments. In some cases, it's only necessary to open or preview an email to be infected. Good practice includes never opening attachments unless you know what they are, never opening obvious spam emails and turning off your email program's preview function.
Data Transmission Security
Whenever data is transmitted from one device or network to another it is vulnerable to hacking. Sensitive data should be encrypted to prevent this. Wireless networks should always be secured using up-to-date security protocols, as hackers can easily access unsecured or weakly-secured networks. Remember that mobile devices are also vulnerable to hacking and secure these too, encrypting sensitive data where relevant, installing all recommended security upgrades and scanning regularly for malware.
- "Hacking For Dummies"; Kevin Beaver, et al.; 2010
- SANS: Anti-Hacking: The Protection of Computers; Chadd Schlotter; 2003
Clare Edwards has been providing Internet content since 1998. She has written and translated for a variety of markets: everything from technical articles to short fiction and essays on alternative spirituality. She holds a certificate of higher education in electronics and audio arts from Middlesex University.