How Hackers Hack

Hackers are seen on TV and in movies quickly typing up some magic line of code and suddenly having access to highly protected data. But it’s not nearly that easy. While it’s not easy, it is possible. So let’s share a few stories about how hacking actually works.

Personally, I was able to hack into the first online banking system in Texas. While this bank was acquired and is no longer in existence, it was a popular bank at the time. It was accessed via dial-up service at the time. I was able to dial into them in such a way that I was able to get into other people’s accounts. I discovered this security weakness by accident, but with my technical skills, I fully understood why this was possible and how to exploit it. This type of hack is called an “exploit” because it takes advantage of built-in weaknesses. I notified the bank immediately and discussed the problem with their head programmer. I advised them how to patch the problem and they wrote me a commendation letter, which I’ve lost. Oh well.

The STUXNET virus was written specifically to locate and destroy specific controllers used in Iran’s nuclear science program. It has to be written in such a way as to find it’s way in, locate the targeted hardware, and reprogram it to fail. It’s one of the most complex cyber-attacks ever and is a great example of what military grade hacking looks like. Read more about it on

Computer viruses were originally written to cause immediate destruction of the infected computer. They were purely malicious and the goal was vandalism. The technology has evolved, however, and viruses are now often used to collect secret data, to send and share data without your knowledge, or simply to shove marketing down your throat. There’s countless numbers of viruses and each has it’s own goals. One popular strategy is to install a backdoor on the target computer and use that backdoor to download and install more software on the target computer. Whether they want to send you marketing, use your computer as a porn server, or to steal your Quickbooks data, the objectives are never good. Use a great anti-virus product and avoid the bad spots on the internet.

These are viruses that are designed to encrypt your documents on your computer and force you to pay them a fee in order to decrypt the documents. It’s growing in popularity. You have no way of knowing if paying will get your data back. You have no way of getting your data back without paying. A very real problem if you get hit by it. Major companies have been infected with ransomware and have spend huge sums of money to the hackers in order to get their data back. Nasty stuff.