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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

Hackers Are Now For Hire Online

Protect yourself from hackers and identity theft by following secure online practices.

Protect yourself from hackers and identity theft by following secure online practices.

Hacking has been in the spotlight since the massive Sony data breach that resulted in leaked employee Social Security numbers, email addresses, medical documents and personal emails, but it’s not just intelligence agencies and foreign governments who are using cyber-crime for their own ends. Now, the average individual can actually hire a hacker online.

A website called Hacker’s List launched in November, posting jobs that people need hackers to do, and connecting them with a hacker who is willing to take the assignment. The clients stem from all over the world.

The New York Times reported that there were 844 job postings live on the site, although only about 40 hackers had registered with the company so far. The requested jobs included hacking into a boyfriend’s social media accounts, sneaking a peak at a competing business’ customer data base, changing a school grade and scrubbing an embarrassing photo from the internet. The price offers on the jobs range from $100 to $5,000.

Both the clients and hackers remain anonymous throughout this process, and the payment can be held in escrow until the task is completed. This way, the hacker and the client are not able to take advantage of each other and the client can maintain some distance from the actual data breach.

Thomas G. A. Brown, senior manager with FTI Consulting, told The Times that this creates a problem, because “hackers for hire can permit nontechnical individuals to launch cyber-attacks with a degree of deniability, lowering the barriers to entry for online crime.”

The founders of Hacker’s List claim that they are protected from any criminal charges because the users of their site must sign a contract that forbids any illegal activities, making it clear that Hacker’s List as a company does not endorse illegal activities or cyber-crime.

The development and initial success of Hacker’s List reveals that individuals view hacking as relatively normal and low-risk, and are prepared to offer money for the service.

There are also companies composed of “ethical hackers” who are hired by institutions to find vulnerable spots in their security systems. So, how can you strengthen your online security, so you don’t get hacked? Here’s how you can help protect your identity on the web:

  • Change your passwords: You should change all of your passwords every three to six months. Hackers use software to crack your accounts, and the more frequently you change your passwords the less likely they are to succeed.
  • Create complicated passwords: Your passwords should be at least eight characters long, and contain complicated strings of numbers, symbols and upper and lower case letters.
  • Don’t click on links: Sometimes cyber-criminals will email you links containing malware that can compromise your security. To protect against this, refrain from clicking on links that are sent directly to any of your accounts, and install anti-viral software on your computer.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi: Don’t access important information while using public Wi-Fi like the kind offered by libraries and cafes. It’s much easier for hackers to break into your system when you’re on the same network.
  • Don’t write passwords down: It can be difficult to remember you passwords, but never write them down, because that would be a major security risk. Instead, try registering for password management software to keep your passwords secure yet accessible to you.
  • Use unique passwords: Use a different password for each account you have online. This way, if a hacker gains access to your Facebook page he or she can’t also access your online bank account.

If you’re still concerned about becoming the victim of identity theft, you may want to look into identity theft protection services, which can alert you to certain activities that may indicate fraud.