Hacking attempts have become common, driven by the desire to access your information for financial gain and by disrupting your business and personal life. With elections approaching, you can bet this will be a hot topic.
Before going into the firearms industry full-time, I spent almost two decades as the owner of an internet company competing against major providers such as Comcast and ATT, in the Chicago area. Unauthorized access attempts were a daily battle. It wasn’t an attack here and there; it was common to have multiple attacks daily.
Your internet provider is your first line of defense against network disruptions and provides an additional layer of cyber security. An example often in the news is a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that brings internet traffic to a crawl or full stop.
What is a hacktivist?
A term many people are not familiar with is “hacktivist.” Hacktivists are individuals or groups whose goals are to make life difficult for people who don’t believe as they do. These activists can ruin your life and business without leaving their homes. Some are very sophisticated, and others work from their parent’s basements, eating Cheetos and drinking Red Bull. Yes, those people exist, it’s not just a joke.
You are an even bigger target if you are in an industry surrounded by controversy, like firearms. Political motives often drive these people, and they aim to compromise industries they oppose. These people or groups target organizations, governments, and unsuspecting people like you.
What are hacktivists after?
Data: Once they have your personal data, they can open accounts in your name or expose your life history so others can harass you.
Doxxing: This is when a person’s name, address, employment, or other information is made public without their permission.
Discredit: Once you’ve lost a customer’s trust, it is hard to get it back.
Business interruption: If they control your website, they control your livelihood. If your site is e-commerce-based, any downtime is money.
Suppose your website provides news or information. In that case, they can do things to disrupt your traffic by embedding code that can knock your Google rankings way down the list. It can be difficult to find, fix, and recover from.
NRA Bank Account Information, Staff Social Security Numbers Leaked by Russian Hackers | The Reload https://t.co/KY6y2G59FE
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 11, 2021
Prevention: Don’t be the Soft Target
There are several practical, simple solutions to safeguard yourself and your business. It’s like using situational awareness for self-defense, you can prevent many successful attacks with a software patch or by taking additional precautions with passwords and emails.
Patches: Update everything, including any website you have. Developers will release patches to plug holes and vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities are what hackers exploit to gain access to your server and either control it or steal your data. It’s a constant struggle between developers and hackers.
Passwords: Use strong passwords and change them often. Do not use the same password for all the sites you use. When they compromise the data on one site, hackers can use the information from there to attempt to access other accounts you have.
Multi-Factor Authentication: This type of login requires a second source of validation, like a text message to your phone, before granting access to users.
Emails: Be extremely careful when clicking on links in emails, even if you know who they came from. Some links will download applications that can compromise your computer and allow someone to record every keystroke you make.
Hackers are good at what they do and move fast. They can access a server and remain undetected for months. Simple preventive measures and safety precautions can stop many hacks.
New breach: GunAuction[.]com was hacked in December and 565k user accounts leaked with names, addresses, phone numbers, partial credit card data and plain text passwords. 83% were already in @haveibeenpwned. Read more: https://t.co/N1gf2gvw6A
— Have I Been Pwned (@haveibeenpwned) March 2, 2023
At one point, as we were bringing a new server online, applying patches and updates, a hacker group from Australia broke into it. When the hackers took over our server, they intended to use it for communications called Internet Relay Chat (IRC). As we watched what they were doing, they taught us how they operated, allowing us to learn from them and prevent a full-blown attack. I’m sure they thought they were getting away with it, but we were learning how they worked.
We were able to see their traffic, including where the connections were originating from. Once we saw what we wanted, we took the server offline and started over. This was early in my career, and that was something we prevented from ever happening again.
Clearly, “hacking” and cyber security cover much more than simply stealing your personal data for monetary benefit. Hackers can cause major disruption to your business and give activists access to sensitive information, such as your home address.
“Hacktivists” are driven by their own agendas and sometimes by political motives. They aim to go after the industries they oppose, like firearms. This is their way of silencing the opposition, disrupting business, and putting your personal information out there for the world to see.