A question that we hear a lot when it comes to cyber-crime: What are hackers after, anyways?
There are a lot of different types of hackers and computer scammers out there, so there’s no one answer. Some of them are just practical jokers, some use viruses to get revenge on the company they were fired from, or just to bother random people online. The main reason hacking exists, however, is that it’s a great way to make a dishonest living by stealing information from unsuspecting users.
If you have the know how, the time, and the lack of moral scruples, it’s really not that hard to crack into someone’s computer with a spybot and monitor their activity, or even to take control of their computer from afar and look right into their files.
So now the question becomes “Why?” Why do hackers want that information so badly?
There are a number of things a hacker can do with the information they steal from you. The most obvious example would be, of course, that they can steal your financial information or your identity, using your credit card number to buy whatever they like or even getting into your bank account.
That’s the scariest kind of hacker, anyways, but even if you don’t have any of your financial information on your PC, you’re still a target for info and identity theft.
Besides outright stealing your identity and spending your hard earned money for you, many hackers will settle for some more mundane details, such as using spyware to look at your browser history, email, internet proxy, anything they can get ahold of, and then selling that to unscrupulous advertisers who flood your inbox with spam and fill your screen with pop ups.
Back when computers were more of a hobby than a serious part of one’s every day life, we really didn’t have much info on our PCs worth stealing. In those days, viruses were relatively benign. Maybe they’d make your computer do something weird, maybe pop up an image or a message, like THE CREEPER, the first computer virus, which simply made your computer monitor read “I’M THE CREEPER, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN”, for the most part, they were harmless practical jokes.
There still are those practical joker hackers out there, but what hacking has largely become is an illegal multimillion dollar a year industry, a great way for con artists to make a quick buck without even having to put themselves at risk by lying to your face.
The bottom line is that hackers want money, and they don’t care how they get it. If they can take your bank account information, they will, and if they can’t, they’ll settle for some personal info to sell to spammers.
Luckily, a good security program will generally protect you from most hackers, but they’re working ’round the clock to figure out how to bypass your security measures, how to find new weak points, so it’s important that the methods you use to protect yourself evolve at a faster pace than that of the hacker’s methods.