More than occasionally people will come to one of my tech friends or me with a computer problem. No longer an uncommon occurrence with the ever-present digital influence in our lives, we’ve all grown accustomed to the fact that this will, in fact, never end.
If what they say is true that knowledge is power, it’s kind of our duty as computer nerds – versions of “keyboard cowboys” if you’ll allow me to make a reference to Hackers, to help people when it comes to all things technical. But we’ve all noticed a sharp shift in what people come to us for – when a few years ago it might have been basic OS reinstalls or simple virus cleans, today it’s a lot of security and protection of personal data. And the reason for that is the evolution of the development of viruses and other pieces of malicious software.
Back then viruses were designed for one of a few goals: humor and annoyance (i.e. Yankee Doodle and its ilk) or at worst, data destruction (remember Michelangelo?). But once the internet age took hold, destruction of data wasn’t enough. Now there are networks. Now there are advanced communication methods. Which means now there are means and opportunity.
Where there’s means and opportunity of course there’s theft. Why just destroy data when systems are in place now to try and leverage that data for gain? That’s the kind of thinking we need to deal with now. And while most people may think that the biggest thing to fear on that front is a virus or worm that could steal information or holes in their security, they’re only half right. What’s more dangerous is the blind spot they have which prevents them from seeing the human element – how those security holes are exploited and how those and trojans and malware are deployed to begin with. And that human element is called social engineering.