Hacking is what computer criminals (or hackers) do when they try to penetrate a computer system by foiling its security features. Although there is a subculture of hackers that do it as a kind of sport for the intellectual challenge, others are malicious or criminal in intent. “Hacktivists” are a new class of hackers that are politically motivated or have a cause. Once they penetrate a system, they seek to cause damage by changing or destroying data, profit from stealing it or use it to embarrass a company or government agency.
Hackers use many techniques and tools, including many different types of malicious software programs, called malware or crimeware. Crimeware is a widespread problem, infecting 31.6% of all PCs worldwide, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group. The hacker tool of choice is called a Trojan, representing nearly 80% of all new crimeware. Named for the Trojan Horse of Greek mythology, it is malicious software that hides inside another program or file to install itself on your PC or mobile phone. The program might monitor your keystrokes and send your login credentials to the hacker, or create a “backdoor” that allows the hacker to steal information or use your system to attack others. One way hackers spread crimeware is by sending millions of “spam” phishing emails that contain infected files. There were 170,000 unique phishing attacks in the first half of 2012 and a record 63,000 hacker-controlled phishing websites were detected in April alone.