Hacking in review: how technological innovations come with a dark side


New devices in the past few decades have led to exploits of their vulnerabilities and the fear of privacy breaches. (Photo Courtesy of Fox Business)

Eric Wong, Features Editor

Although there has been numerous innovation in technology over the past decade, the rapid growth has unknowingly opened the door for people to take advantage of vulnerability in various gadgets. Whether it was the notorious iCloud leak or recent news like the breaching of State Department email accounts, hacking is everywhere today. According to a study conducted by Sophos Labs, over 30,000 websites are hacked every day.

To Junior Carlee Svec, hacking is an issue she has faced personally.

“I have been hacked on Facebook,” Svec said. “Someone I didn’t know posted something on my wall.”

Despite this, many Americans are unaware of the definition of hacking and its other aspects. According to Merriam-Webster, a hacker is defined as, “A person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system.” Hacking gained emergence in the 1960’s when universities staged underground hacking tests.

Applied tech teacher Michael Karasch traces hacking from its beginnings to where it is now.

“It goes back to hardware hacking where people would physically solder things apart, and that the actual hacking would be more of a tool,” Karasch said. “Then it sort of developed over time to more software-based hacking as it became more available. There are different subsets like phreaking, which is phone based hacking.

Karasch believes hacking has taken on a new definition as devices grow more and more advanced.

“Hacking has sort of taken on a term to mean anything where you’re modifying code whatever it is,” Karasch said. “If you’re modifying code for just out of curiosity or if you’re modifying it for malicious intent, it’s all considered hacking.”

In addition, many have a negative conception of hacking, which is not true. Hacking for a greater cause was witnessed in 1998, when Chris Wysopal and his hacking group, L0pht Heavy Industries, found a way to shut down the internet completely for the entire country. Rather than abusing this info, Wysopal brought this info to the U.S. senate in an effort to raise awareness for the internet’s faulty security. Over time, hacking without malevolent purposes would gain the name “White hat.”

Various methods of hacking can be benevolent, according to Karasch.

“Companies will hire a hacker to test their security and call it network penetration testing. They will say, ‘Hey, can you get into our servers?’ because they figure if they can pay somebody to try and do it, then they will know if they’re vulnerable,” Karasch said. “In addition, open source software is basically an open invitation to find bugs, find issues, find things that are wrong and let us know, there’s a lot of that. Then there are people who, because they think it’s right, will hack things just to let the world know.”

Despite this, hacking can be extremely dangerous if used for foul play. One question on the minds of many is how to effectively protect your gadgets. The FBI’s official website lists important tips to follow when protecting your computer: keep your firewall turned on, install or update your antivirus software and antispyware technology, keep your operating system up to date, be careful what you download and turn off your computer.