Technology may be taking the front seat, but cyber crime is at the wheel.

New technology translates to new possibility. When tech is leveraged as a means of accessing information outside of what its creator intended, it is called hacking. On the ground floor, hacking is built off of code, which is computer language like Javascript or Python, that computers are programmed to respond. Coding by itself is an art form, exploring new alternatives to problems, creative thinking, and fortifying personal or company security.

Hacking is a byproduct of this computer programming in the same sense that speeding is a utilization of knowing how to drive; it is a useful skill until you give it dangerous intent.

On its face, hacking is a matter of intruding personal security, a crime which will land an individual sufficient jail time. “The maximum fine required (in California) may range from $1,000 to $10,000,” reports FindLaw, California’s leading source on computer crime. “The term of imprisonment may be served in county jail or state prison and last for a term of one year, sixteen months, two years, or three years.” The degree of the hack can contribute to the punishment. A class B misdemeanor can land you up to six months in prison, and a class B felony hack can warrant a sentence up to 20 years. This can account from six months to twenty years behind bars for committing a crime which requires no more mobility than the comfort of one’s desk.

The United States has long carried strife with several countries – historically China and Russia – that have hacked into confidential emails, accounts and credit card information through the motive of political gain, deeming themselves hacktivists.

“Hacktivism’s main goal is to bring issues to light and cause social change,” said Eric Roberts, a retired Computer Science professor at Stanford. “It achieves these goals in a relatively peaceful manner.”

However, many times people will seek a political advance through terrorism or force. In one such case in November 2014, a group identified as the Guardians of Peace (GOP) hacked Sony Pictures in response to its announcement of The Interview, a movie pivoted on assassinating North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un. Although purportedly told that this group came from North Korea itself, the country denied its ties with the incident, and since the GOP threatened to bomb live premiers, Sony was obliged to cancel its live showings altogether.

Lesser-known attacks have surfaced in the coming decade. Enterprises like Facebook, Target, British Airways and Staples have had their fair share of hack humiliation. In 2013, Target faced cyber-intrusion when a breach of over 40 million credit cards and customer accounts became compromised, as reported by the New York Times. Anthem Blue Cross admitted to a hack of 80 million customer identities which encompassed birth dates, home addresses, social security and emails. In addition, the Washington Post announced in fall 2016 that Yahoo had compromised 500 million accounts.

Harnessing the skill to attack a computer system’s vulnerabilities are not for the faint of heart, but by developing these skills, many people, young and old, find lucrative careers in this area.

Coding often starts at a young age and is encouraged as a step towards Computer Science professions.

Jacob Franklin smiles at camera as a student software developer.

Senior Jacob Franklin was introduced by a classmate in his welding class in his sophomore year. “I started looking into it and just thought it was really, really fun,” Franklin said. “And so I taught myself how to program. From there, I started making games.” He has since created a software and game design company called Creative Minds. “I plan to go to college and pursue Computer Science wherever I am. The whole goal was really to expand my company. Technology is where the future lies. The faster you get into it, the better you will do in life.”

“CS jobs will be the highest-paying sectors over the next decade, paying almost 15 thousand more than average,” said MadeWithCode, a Google-produced initiative to teach more females to code and interact with the programming community.

Professions in Computer Science include Product Development, Design, Marketing, whitehat security and more. Whitehat is a precaution taken by companies to find weak spots before a hacker exploits them, that way the company is prepared for most common attacks. 

In a TEDxMaui Talk, whitehat security hacker Jeremiah Grossman breaks down the significance of hacking yourself. “We have an army of the very best hackers that do this for companies large and small. We hack into these systems day in and day out to find these issues and get them fixed,” said Grossman. “If you’re playing a game that you cannot afford to lose, change the rules. That is what it is really all about. We get nothing by making hacking illegal.”

“As you learn more about the methods hackers use to infiltrate systems, you’ll be able to preemptively resolve issues,” said Capella University. “Many companies including Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Facebook, Saleforce.com, and Mozilla have also embraced a ‘Hack Yourself First’ mindset.”

There are many precautions that may be taken to ensure a safe computer experience against common malware attacks. But to defend against an attack, one must first understand its
innerworkings. The most prevalent invasion, generally seen from Chinese hacking, is known as Distributed Denial of service or DDos,
which sends an overflow of online traffic to a specific server until it is forced offline. The average attack can last hours and destroys 17 million dollars every hour if targeting the financial industry, according to FossBytes. “DDoS attacks affect more than 45% of organizations.” Verizon Wireless (the second largest telephone provider in the world) gave their 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, they determined “100,000 incidents, including 2,260 confirmed data breaches across 82 countries.” One of three breaches is accounted for as DDos.

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