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Dumb question about hacking

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Dumb question about hacking

Please first let me assure you that I haven't been hacked and I'm not aksing for nefarious reasons. I've just always wondered.

I've sene a lot of people talking about hvaing thier email (usually hotmail or some such) "hacked", waht specifically does "hacked" mean? Does it mean someone has just figured out their password and then gone in and messed up their account, or is it something more technical where they "hack" in some other way?

Ta in advance for anyone shedding light on this for me. Smiley
7 REPLIES
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RE: Dumb question about hacking

At the simplest level someone else gaining access to their account. Then they may use it for nefarious purposes etc. Hotmail has had its share of problems, about 4 years ago, there was a bug that meant someone could send you an email at your hotmail account with a link in, if you clicked that link they then could access your account.

Commonly however accounts are hacked into either because people use common passwords which don't stand up to a dictionary attack or fall foul of a little social engineering. Social engineering is the technique of getting someone to give you their password by puporting to be someone else (i.e. an email allegedly from your ISP asking you to confirm you password). A recent survey at a London train station found that a staggering two-thirds of people questioned were willing to give out passwords when being interviewed.

Finally as a little aside, I really hate the way that the term hacker and hacked has been misused over the years. Hacking is an engineering term for (in effect) playing around to make things work. In other words hacking something together.
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RE: Dumb question about hacking

Thanks very much for the reply and apologies for my typos in the first post.

The "social engineering" part is very interesting, I looked at Yahoo's terms of Service today (as I have webmail with them) and noticed it said they are not responsible if your password is made available to someone else. Does this mean that if I did give my password out to someone and they or a third party used it to gain access to my account that it would be my own fault? Truthfully I kind of understand if it is because IMO you have to be a bit naive or idiotic to give your password out to people, even people you think you know.

Anyway thanks again, sometimes it's difficult to get pretty basic stuff explained when you do a search. And I appreciate your concern about the missuse of the word "hacked".
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RE: Dumb question about hacking

Yep basically a password is something you should keep to yourself. On a slight aside (and naming no names) about 4 years ago I was amazed (and horrified) that a clients hosting provider emailed (my clients) username and password for their website, when I questioned why new files couldn't be uploaded, which goes to show just how easy it can be sometimes to get a password out of someone. Needless to say I've finally convinced my client to move to another service.

Actually I'm more annoyed about the term hacker than hacked. Hackers are perceived to be evil doers, whereas Crackers is a more descriptive term. Hacking is about making new things, Cracking about breaking things. Then there's Script Kiddies (or S'Kiddies) who just take other peoples tools and with no real knowledge of them use them for their own gains/perverse pleasures.

Finally what I meant to add to my last post was my own interpretation of the term hacking. In relation to software it IMO refers to playing around with code trying to make things work, or to break things to understand how they work.
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RE: Dumb question about hacking

> Thanks very much for the reply and apologies for my typos in the first post.
>
> The "social engineering" part is very interesting, I looked at Yahoo's terms of Service today (as I have webmail with them) and noticed it said they are not responsible if your password is made available to someone else. Does this mean that if I did give my password out to someone and they or a third party used it to gain access to my account that it would be my own fault? Truthfully I kind of understand if it is because IMO you have to be a bit naive or idiotic to give your password out to people, even people you think you know.
>
> Anyway thanks again, sometimes it's difficult to get pretty basic stuff explained when you do a search. And I appreciate your concern about the missuse of the word "hacked".

Hi,
I liked what big Al has said but just to add that the wider term hacking as used in the press can also refer to cyber vandalism such as defacement of websites or the determined person who attempts to get credit card numbers off insecure commercial website or some nerdy person who just wants to see if they can gain access to the penagons network,etc


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RE: Dumb question about hacking

> I liked what big Al has said but just to add that the wider term hacking as used in the press can also refer to cyber vandalism such as defacement of websites or the determined person who attempts to get credit card numbers off insecure commercial website or some nerdy person who just wants to see if they can gain access to the Pentagon's network, etc

What you say is true - so much so that the term "hacking" in common parlance does generally refer to unwelcome and unacceptable pursuits. To a large extent, I blame journalists for this, for it seems to me, they are the ones primarily responsible for popularising this meaning. But if you read the books of, say, open source writers, such as Eric S Raymond's important series of essays brought together under the title "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" you will see a very distinct and explicit differentiation made between "hacking" as an innocent pursuit undertaken by computing enthusiasts, and "cracking" the unacceptable and often malicious use of computers and computing knowledge.

The use of the terms "hacking" and "hacker" in their malicious sense may already be so widespread for it to be futile to insist on their original meanings, but as computer enthusiasts, I think we should be aware of the terms "cracking" and "cracker", use them where appropriate, and make a proper distinction ourselves.
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RE: Dumb question about hacking

> > I liked what big Al has said but just to add that the wider term hacking as used in the press can also refer to cyber vandalism such as defacement of websites or the determined person who attempts to get credit card numbers off insecure commercial website or some nerdy person who just wants to see if they can gain access to the Pentagon's network, etc
>
> What you say is true - so much so that the term "hacking" in common parlance does generally refer to unwelcome and unacceptable pursuits. To a large extent, I blame journalists for this, for it seems to me, they are the ones primarily responsible for popularising this meaning. But if you read the books of, say, open source writers, such as Eric S Raymond's important series of essays brought together under the title "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" you will see a very distinct and explicit differentiation made between "hacking" as an innocent pursuit undertaken by computing enthusiasts, and "cracking" the unacceptable and often malicious use of computers and computing knowledge.
>
> The use of the terms "hacking" and "hacker" in their malicious sense may already be so widespread for it to be futile to insist on their original meanings, but as computer enthusiasts, I think we should be aware of the terms "cracking" and "cracker", use them where appropriate, and make a proper distinction ourselves.

Hi,
YEP! I agree with your sentiments completely, as far as my understanding goes there is a destinct line or boundary that is crossed between legal or legitimate use & exploitation for mailicous intent.

For example I get port scanned daily & my firewall logs are full of the IP address's concerned. I can port scan back if I wish and can find a huge amount of detail about the remote user & remote system. If I was dishonest I could even hack or crack into the remote machine (I think I know how it could be done) but frankly this is not something I want too do, it just doesnt interest me in the slightest.
Its not the sort of challenge that I find exciting or worthwhile (obviously others are interested in this sort of thing). But what I am trying to say is that its completely clear when what your doing is OK and when its definitely NOT OK! one has to cross an ethical or moral line.

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RE: Dumb question about hacking

Actually I did also mean to post a link to the hackers dictionary yesterday:

http://www.drbbs.com/jsw/jargon/jargon_toc.html

In particular I think everyone should read the story of Mel (the real programmer or hacker): http://www.drbbs.com/jsw/jargon/jargon_49.html