Computer hackers are constantly trying to gain access to individual’s computers via viruses, malware, email scams and other underhanded methods. What are these hackers hoping to find if they gain access to your computer? Does the average personal (or business) computer contain valuable information to make it a valid hacking target?
Many people take the “it happens to someone else” thought approach to hacking. They think about the activities they do on their computer (such as web browsing, document creation/editing and media consumption), and think to themselves that they have nothing of value on their computer and as such decide hackers would never “waste their time” trying to gain access to it. After all, surely the hackers are trying to break into a bank’s computer system or something similar!
This kind of thinking leaves computer users vulnerable to getting completely blindsided by hacking. Malicious code is often contracted passively and can sit for months or even years on a computer without being detected. Many of these exploits can be completed in seconds if a user installs a virus or malware by mistake.
There is value in every device to a hacker. Click below to read additional information, or read on to find out more:
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What Are the Hackers Looking For On Your Computer?
It turns out that there are a great number of different “goods” on a computer that hacker can exploit to make money from. A fairly standard hacked PC can have the following information, or be used for the following nefarious means:
“Stranded abroad” email scam
Harvesting email contacts and accounts
Access to corporate email
Online gaming profiles for high popularity games
Online gaming goods/currency
PC game/software license keys
Operating system license keys
Access to social network accounts to post and message spam links to friends
Online gaming info
Website FTP info
Client side encryption keys
Bank account data
Credit card data
Stock trading account data
Mutual Fund/401k account info
As seen by the extensive list above, the average computer can contain a lot of different information that a hacker could find valuable. It is highly likely that most computers have at least a few of the above elements stored on them.
What Can Hackers Set Up Your Computer to Do?
Perhaps one of the scariest things that can happen isn’t found in what hackers can take from you, but rather what they can re-purpose your computer to do. Running either hidden programs (that can go undetected to an untrained eye) or full on “hostage” attacks on your computer, a hacker can cause some serious damage by repurposing your computer.
Assuming the exploited PC has a decent internet connection, it can be setup as a web server to distribute various illegal, spam and/or black market information. This can include:
Malware download sites
Illegal explicit material servers
Your computer can be configured to be a part of a botnet, a massive network of 100s-1,000,000s of infected computers that can be used to fulfil the botnet owner’s purposes. Oftentimes bot activity is very hard to detect by the user and the user’s computer can be a bot for years without the user knowing it. Below are just several of the terrible examples:
DDoS extortion bots
Click fraud bots
CAPTCHA solving bots
Processing power to mine for bitcoin or other cryptocurrency
The most ‘in-your-face’ of hacks is a hostage attack. In a hostage attack, the hacker takes complete control of your computer, locking the owner out the computer, or certain parts of the computer, and asking for a ransom to unlock the locked parts. This kind of attack can take the following forms:
Fake antivirus prompts asking you to install various malicious code
Email account ransom
Webcam image feed
As seen by the above list, a hacker can repurpose your computer in ways that can be catastrophic to the productivity and integrity of your virtual information.
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Protect Your Computers
If your are a home computer user or an IT specialist in charge of a network of PCs, it is your responsibility to keep your network protected and safe. Do not assume that no one is targeting you.
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