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Illegal Internet

Illegal Internet

This in-depth article takes a look at hacking on the Internet. Covering hacker motivation, computer viruses, security, personal firewalls and how to track a hacker!

John Collins 

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2. Hacker Motivation

The factors that affect the motivation of someone who is drawn to illegal hacker activities are not always clear. It is well known, for example, that few hackers are motivated by financial gain. Most hacker activity is of a nature were money is rarely involved.

2.1 Factors of Motivation

Few studies have been carried out into hacker motivation, although much has been gained by interviewing former hackers who have now gone 'white-hat' (i.e. hacking for security companies etc.). Here are some of the factors that may motivate a person into becoming a hacker:

  • Curiosity: Many hackers have stated that they are simply 'curious' about computer and telephone networks and how they work. They wish to explore these networks in order to better understand how they work.

  • Spying: This may be on a friend or family member, a work colleague or employee, or a business rival. Hacking of this nature usually involves monitoring an individuals Internet activities or personal data files over a certain period of time without them knowing of the surveillance.

  • Prestige: Creditability or social standing within the hacking community can be heightened by hacking a high-profile target, one that will ideally gain coverage in the broader media such as the newspapers or television.

  • Intellectual Challenge: These are two words that come up again and again when convicted hackers are interviewed. Many hackers simply thrive on the excitement of eventually cracking a server that they may have been working on cracking for months.

  • Anarchy: Although perhaps less common then the above factors, many hackers have expressed political views leaning towards Anarchy, stating anti-globalisation views combined with a deep hatred for the corporate nature of many e-commerce sites. They hope to bring down these financial systems in order to reclaim the Internet for themselves.

  • Money: Most hackers are not motivated by financial gain, if they do engage in credit card fraud its likely that they used it to buy domain names or web space! It is important to point out, however, that many professional criminals use hacking techniques to make money by setting up bogus e-commerce sites to collect credit card details, hacking servers that contain credit cards details, or engaging in other forms of credit card fraud. These people would not normally fall within the umbrella of 'hackers' however, due to the more serious nature of their motivation.

There have been many cases of hackers probing a computer system and finding security vulnerabilities, and then e-mailing the system administrator in order to help the administrator to improve their security! All hackers are individuals operating according to their own rule books, they are not all bad.

2.2 The Likelihood of being a Target

Many people are likely to worry about the likelihood of becoming a target for a hacker. It is common sense that if you have a computer at home and only connect to the Internet once a week for two hours, you are highly unlikely to become a victim of being hacked. Applying this logic it is possible to determine the likelihood of being hacked dependant upon your level of Internet exposure, from high-risk to low-risk:

  1. Internet Security firms. Internet Security firms are the most likely targets for hackers, the very nature of their work makes them the natural enemies of the 'black-hat' community. Their servers and web sites contain the best security, therefore making them a very challenging target for hackers.

  2. High-profile media-friendly targets. These include large corporation's sites, political party sites, celebrity sites etc. Basically, anything that will gain the hacker coverage in the wider media, and credibility within the hacker community.

  3. Anyone with a web site. Anyone that has their own web site, be it for e-commerce reasons or otherwise, is more likely to become the victim of hacking then those who don't. Your web site is available 24 hrs a day, 365 days a week, and can be hacked at any time due to its 'always-on' nature. E-commerce sites are far more attractive to hackers than community pages, for example.

  4. Always-on Broadband Connections. Again, due to broad band's always-on connection, the likelihood of being hacker is increased. Furthermore, unlike dial-up modems where the user is given a different 'dynamic' IP (Internet Protocol) address by the web server each time they connect, the always-on IP address is said to be 'static' meaning it never changes. Once the hacker gains your IP address (which is very easily achieved), he/she knows exactly where to find your computer again and again in the future, while being sure that you are currently connected. Use of a firewall is especially important with always-on connections.

  5. Dial-up Modem Connections. Although some protection is provided by having a different IP address assigned to you each time you dial-up connect to the Internet, dial-up connections are still vulnerable to being attacked as long as the connection is live. However, if you only use the Internet now and then, and you don't have any other web presence such as a web site, your obscurity is your best protection in terms of not being a high profile target.

Anyone who is connected to the Internet in any way is vulnerable to being hacked, having a Trojan horse sniff out their computer, or falling victim to a virus. For these reasons and many more, all users should make themselves aware of anti-virus software, firewalls and general security measures in order to ensure that they minimise the likelihood of falling victim to such attacks, by making their personal computers, web sites or servers as unattractive to potential hackers as possible.

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About The Author

John Collins is a freelance web developer and software design consultant from Dublin, Ireland. You can find more articles by him at his home site,

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