Hackers: Who Are They, and Why Do They Want to Attack Your Site?

Welcome to Security 101, our five-part guide to website security. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about website security, including the best ways to protect yourself.

Hackers Themselves

Everybody has heard of hackers (not least because of that hit 1995 movie with Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller), but what do they actually do? The prospect of being hacked seems frightening, but the reality of cybercrime is often pretty mundane. For hackers, the main attraction is doing something challenging and exciting: entering an online space they are not supposed to be in, accessing secured data, or exposing vulnerabilities in a system. They often bear more resemblance to the accidental terrorist in Wargames than the evil genius in Skyfall.

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Website Hacking

Day-to-day cybercrime is about accessing data, defacing pages, and turning websites into gateways for other places on the web. Sites that have been hacked often have their pages filled with links to other sites, usually ones selling adult content or displaying pornographic imagery. The owners of these sites are being paid by advertisers, and all they have to do to profit is get people to land on their site once. Obviously this will do nothing for your site’s reputation, and it can severely damage your ranking on Google.

Some hacking examples

Defacing pages involves changing the appearance of a page. For example, a site’s homepage could end up with a video or slideshow being played over it. This kind of attack usually has nothing to do with data theft; it is often done as an act of protest or in the interests of a political cause.

How Hacking Happens

So how do these breaches happen? Many hackers use programs to gain “backdoor access” to computer systems, which allows them free rein to make changes. Others use programs to log the keystrokes on one or more computers, allowing them to access information like passwords and open up the rest of the system. There are many possibilities out there for the average hacker, but they all rely on there being vulnerabilities in the system in question.

Keeping Your Site Safe

protecting your website against hackers

The best way to keep your website safe is to implement a strong security program and monitor your site closely. If you see any unexpected changes or have any trouble accessing your own system (the first thing many hackers do is change passwords), contact your security provider. With the right precautions, you can ensure that hacking does not damage your business. Hacking is definitely a concern in today’s online world, but it needn’t be an overwhelming one.

In the next blog post, we’ll take a detailed look at identity theft and what you can do to prevent it.