If you ask a group of people what they think of when you say the word “hacker,” you’ll probably get a lot of different answers. Over the years, our understanding of hackers and hacking has shifted. During the computer boom of the 80s, hackers were high-tech spies. Today, we imagine hackers as everything from burglars to vandals to inventors. But what do you as a business owner need to know about hacking to keep your company’s sensitive information safe?
Well, for starters:
- The who, what, and why of hacking
- Best practices for keeping your business’s data secure
- How “good hackers” can help protect your from cybersecurity threats
Portrait of a Hacker
What is hacking?
As a broad term, hacking is often defined as a kind of creative problem solving. You’ve probably heard about growth-hacking your business, or life hacks that will make your daily routines easier. Computer hacking– which is the kind of hacking we’re concerned about– can similarly be thought about as creative problem solving. Rather than rethinking marketing strategies or everyday items, computer hackers explore the properties of computers and networks, using them in new and unexpected ways to accomplish a variety of goals.
Who are hackers?
Anybody can be a hacker. In fact, you may even be a hacker yourself! See the definition above. If you’ve ever gotten creative with computing, you could very well fit into the category. The important thing to note is that hacking has a broad definition, and not all hackers look like the bad guys you see in movies, typing furiously in front of a wall of computer screens as they steal all of the world’s important data with a few simple lines of code.
Why do people hack?
Many hackers are born creatives. They are drawn to hacking out of intellectual curiosity: to them, it’s exciting to figure out how a system works. It’s what they choose to do with the information they discover that really matters. Some hackers identify weaknesses in cybersecurity systems and use that knowledge to better protect their information against attack. Other hackers take a less noble route, hacking to gain fame or fortune by less than legal means. Still others operate in a sort of moral gray area– for example, some hackers have been known to steal information to expose corruption.
Cybersecurity Strategies for Businesses
Regardless of whether the hacker attempting to access your data is a criminal or some high-schooler screwing around on the computer, you don’t want people getting into your sensitive data. Obviously. But what can you do to make sure that only the people you’ve cleared to access your information are accessing your information? Here are a few basic guidelines:
- Install antivirus software on all of your business’s computers
- Train employees on best practices for keeping data secure
- Make sure your wifi network is secure and hidden
- Limit the number of people who have access to sensitive files
- Set up a firewall
- Include a detailed cybersecurity section in your employee code of conduct that outlines expectations as well as punishments if rules are broken
- Only allow authorized individuals to use your company’s devices and technology
- Always, always, always keep a backup of important business information
- Secure every page of your company’s website, not just login and checkout pages
- Have well thought-out and secure IT solutions in place
- Consider hiring a hacker
When Hacking is Actually a Good Thing
We’ve already learned that some hackers aren’t trying to do anything malicious. But did you know that some hackers are actually working to keep your data secure? “White hat” hackers are hackers who seek out and report cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. Some white hat hackers do this simply to improve overall cybersecurity, but many receive pay for their work. Today, more and more companies are hiring white hat hackers to help them identify weaknesses in their cybersecurity strategies. As the practice becomes more common, it is becoming easier and easier to find and hire white hat hackers for yourself. These days, it’s as simple as searching for “white hat hackers” on Upwork.
If you ask a group of people to define hacking, you’ll likely receive a number of different answers. That makes sense because by definition hacking– and that includes computer hacking– is always growing and evolving. While some of these hackers can pose major threats to your company’s cybersecurity, others may even be able to help you lock down your data. What do you think about white hat hacking? Let us know in a comment below!