Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hackers and Virus Writers

“In the old days, people robbed stagecoaches and knocked off armored trucks. Now they're knocking off servers.” -Richard Power

Several months ago, a hacker removed my husband’s yahoo email address book. I don’t mean they simply copied the info—after sending spam to every name listed, the data was wiped out as though the book never existed. It wasn’t the end of the world and he had the means for retrieving the lost information but it’s the senselessness of the act that bothers me. As a writer, my computer is my lifeline and to think someone can just sneak in and snatch something away is more than disturbing to me.

What makes a person take this sort of action against someone they do not know? What do they get out of it? Does it make them feel smarter than the rest of us? Are they actually proud of their achievements? Does it give them a thrill? I haven’t found all the answers yet but I did come across a couple of good articles on the subject.

I also learned that that virus writers and hackers are two completely separate groups. Virus writers, according to the article 7 Things to Know About Virus Writers, are predominately under the age of 30 and male. Their purposes vary from exploring code, to gaining notoriety or making some sort of political/social/personal statement. Their targets are generally random. The article goes on to say that it’s not that difficult to write a virus. Now that little tidbit is scary to me.

The article Hackers and Hacking by Doug Smith describes hackers as “…ordinary people with a great deal of curiosity, above-average skills with a computer, a good understanding of human nature, and plenty of time to kill.” According to the article there are arguments in favor of hacking (which was an eye-opener for me) as well as against. He gives some good advice on protecting yourself as well as a list of resources to stay current on new threats and to learn about tools that can protect your data.

Personally I think the argument in favor of hacking was pretty weak. To me there is no excuse for doing something that causes so many people so much distress. Hacking into anything that is not yours is no different than breaking into someone’s house or car. Planting a virus that causes a computer to crash or programs to be destroyed is like a form of arson without a match. I think offenders should be punished just like any other criminal.

What are your views? Do you have a hacking or virus story to share?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Richard Power, Hackers, Virus, Yahoo, address book, spam,


Morgan Mandel said...

I think they do it out of boredom. They know too much and don't know what to do with the knowledge.

Morgan Mandel

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane-

These are great research articles for my next thriller...


Katie Hines said...

Wow. I haven't been a victim of a hacker, but I've had viruses before, even though I'm very careful about my email addys. I use one for personal stuff that I NEVER open if I don't recognize the address it's from.

So far, my gmail account is okay, too. But, I've had to spend money to get my computer fixed (2 xs) after a virus found its way in.

Chester Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chester Campbell said...

I messed up the first time, so I'll try again. By the way, great article on hackers and viruses. I read in the newspaper yesterday about the new virus that has all the pros shaking their heads, unable to find a fix.

Now, I'm honored to present you with the "When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade Award." You'll fine the nice lemony-looking logo at my website, which you can copy and put on yours. You are required (or the cyber cops will confiscate your computer) to pass it on to ten other worthy blogs. Congratulations!

Eliza Gayle said...

I think they do it just to prove they can. I can see it as honing their skills but it's a real PIA for those of us cleaning it up behind them.

Hacking does seem entirely different from virus writers. Virus writers are trouble makers and sometimes worse and I see hackers as more times than not as criminals.

Hard to say without being in their mind. Which could be a fascinating book.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Just think if all of that could be funneled into something positive! Sure wish I had that kind of free time...

I never download or open anything without checking with my computer-savvy husband first. Plus we have a firewall and virus scanners to boot!

I'd feel violated too if someone hacked into my stuff...

L. Diane Wolfe

Anonymous said...

Hi! Saw your comment on the Rowan of the Wood Site. I am encouraging everyone to get a copy of that book. I loved reading it this past summer and everyone on the Amtrak I was taking 'home' kept asking 'what book has you so enthralled? Must be a good book'. I also am an author myself and need to get published with my new work. Received an offer for publication. Maybe we could talk about that sometime. Bye!

Anonymous said...

Some hackers are decoding/pirating software from what they percieve as evil companies who should be sharing their information/products for the benefit of all, or something like that. There is also more curiosity and personal pride involved with hacking, and usually a bit less malevolence than with the virus-writers. It's still a mis-use of intelligence, though.

One can't deny the sociopathy that's inherent with folks who hack and write viruses, too. Imagine what they could've done if they'd used their powers for good instead of their evil personal gain. Most people would not want guys like this in their lives, which probably is another driving force behind their misdeeds - they're lonely, angry dudes who can't get any meaningful companionship.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world