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An Overview of Hacking

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An Overview of Hacking

Composition II

Position Paper

Final Draft

Hackers cost governments, corporations, and even normal people billions of dollars per year. You might ask, sure, there are those out there for profit, but what about the college student who was just doing it for fun? Profit or fun, it's still theft. In some cases theft of money, in others, theft of information. Just because a person uses a computer should not impact the severity of their punishment. A murderer's punishment is not affected by which weapon he chooses to employ, so why should a thief's punishment be affected? Usually, information is stolen for the express purpose of making money, either directly, or through the sale of the information obtained, or by blackmail.

In today's fast-paced computerized world, knowledge is indeed power. Through the miracle of the Internet, information can be shared and accessed around the globe, instantaneously. At any given time, millions of people's credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other private data are flying through phone lines near your house. The downside to this technological marvel that we all use, whether we know it or not, is that thieves, disgruntled network administrators, and other unsavory characters can make an easy living off of the Internet, maybe even stealing from you. How? It's all in a day's work for them. One Russian hacker spent a few years bleeding money from the Citibank corporation here in the states from his cozy little house in Russia. His labor was rewarded with $10.4 million dollars in several bank accounts around the world. Unfortunately for him, his labor was also rewarded with arrest. (Caryl, par. 2) However, even though he committed the crime many years ago, he is still in Russia, awaiting extradition. Because of the slow response of the bureaucracy, Russia has bred many hackers. (Caryl, par. 7) Russian hackers do not tamper with systems in Russia, because the Police take swift and vicious revenge for such actions. But other countries systems are another matter, because of the promise of great gain and potentially little risk of being caught. (Caryl, par. 8)

Even though the theft of money is a growing problem, there are other things for hackers to steal. For instance, hospitals have very elaborate network security setups. Why? Many hackers attempt to gain access to people's personal medical files in order to blackmail them, or to avenge some injustice by spreading the person's health problems around. (Scheir, par. 17) Other possibilities might go as far as to include looking up a patient's current location, in order for gang members to finish off the survivor of a drive-by shooting or other attempted murder. (Scheir, par. 10) It is for these reasons that medical facilities computer security procedures are second only to the government's.

There are even more forms of hacking to go into. One type, called phreaking, is often a side-effect of a computer hacker's work. (Machlis, par. 8) Phreaking is the manipulation of phone lines and phone services. Over the space of a few years in the early eighties, hackers learned how to make free phone calls, bounce their line around to other places to avoid traces, even damage equipment at the other end of the line. Using the process of phreaking, hackers can anonymously and untraceably link themselves to remote systems, no matter how far away, without incurring long distance charges.

Combating hackers is a very expensive process. It is estimated that in 1997 a total of $6.3 billion dollars will be spent on computer security. (Lohr, par. 1) A great deal of this will go to protect against computer viruses. A computer virus is a very small program that can clone itself at will, over disks and phone lines, and usually causes some devastating impact on the target, such as deleting files, or even damaging the computer. Just like human viruses, such as AIDS, which changes form constantly to avoid destruction, some computer viruses, called polymorphic viruses, change slightly so that any previous anti-virus software will no longer detect it. This is why ...

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Keywords: overview of hacking, overview of ethical hacking

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