Watch out, watch out, there’s a hacker about

You have been hacked sign on LCD ScreenYesterday, along with dozens of others, my Twitter account was hacked into. Indeed, ALL of my Twitter accounts were hacked into all sending out the same Tweet leading people to what looked like a BBC News web page, but which in fact was a fake. The page seems to have been produced by a Las Vegas individual promoting some kind of diet aid.

Luckily, I noticed the hacks – as did Twitter who alerted me by email within moments saying they thought my account had been compromised. I have changed all my passwords and deleted the offending Tweets.

Then I wake up this morning to hear the Internet Watch Foundation on BBC Radio Five Live saying that in the past year they have discovered more than 200 well-known and legitimate websites that have been hacked into to display images of child abuse.

It seems that hacking has changed. A few years ago it was simply a challenge; geeks would try to break into some website simply to prove it could be done. They didn’t want to do any damage, they just loved the challenge. Annoying – certainly, stupid – probably, criminal – sometimes; but not as sick as wanting to distribute images of child abuse to a wide public using popular websites.

By the way, before we move on – please stop calling such images “child porn”, if that is what you do. That legitimises such pictures in the minds of the abusers. Pornography – whatever you might think of it personally – is a legitimate multi-billion pound industry. The images of children are abuse, pure and simple; to refer to them as “pornographic” gives them a degree of legitimacy they do not deserve.

Hacking, as a whole however, is on the rise. Between 2010 and 2011 the incidence of hacking rose by 4000%. Not only that, just a month ago Google reported a further significant rise in hacking attempts, this time emanating from Iran. Meanwhile, at the end of 2012 it was estimated that the number of hacking incidents EACH QUARTER would top ONE BILLION. That means there are 385 websites hacked EVERY SECOND.

YOUR website is at risk

No longer is hacking a geeky pastime. It is the common hunting ground of profiteers, criminals and child abusers. All of them are after the same thing – greater visibility. And your website or your Twitter account gives them that opportunity.

You need to take greater security measures with strong passwords, for instance, using a combination of upper and lower case letters, special characters and numerals. You also need different passwords for everything you do.

Remember, too, that hacking is easy if you do not have physical security measures in place. Hackers can simply photocopy your list of passwords in that folder marked “passwords” and walk out of the building with it.

Also, hackers can do their work easily when people do not monitor their online activities 24 hours a day. Did you know what was happening on your website at 3am on Saturday morning, for instance? Constant website monitoring with email alerts is possible using Google Alerts for instance. Also, consider something like SiteLock – which comes free with some web hosting accounts, for instance.

But whatever you do – do not ignore the threat of hacking. If my Twitter account can get hacked so can your web activity.

1 thought on “Watch out, watch out, there’s a hacker about”

  1. Since writing this post, my Twitter account has been hacked again…! I have discovered that several people have been having the same issue going back over the past two years. There is a discussion about it on the Twitter Developer forum which appears to have been ignored by Twitter themselves. Your Twitter account is clearly at risk. I will investigate some more, but may well advise people soon to STOP using Twitter.

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