If you know much about cyber security, then you know that hacking isn’t as exciting a subject as movies and television make it out to be. Most “hackers” are just guessing passwords or stealing credit cards. But, now and then, along comes a news story about hacking that can actually hold your attention. Here are some interesting high-profile cases in recent headlines:
British Agency Can Hack Any Phone With A Text
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has reported that British Intelligence Agency GCHQ can now hack smartphones by simply sending a text message to the phone. According to reports, there’s no way to prevent this hack, which allows the GCHQ to conduct audio surveillance through the phone, browse the owner’s files and web history, take pictures with the phone, and track the user’s GPS location. This is made possible, according to Snowden, through the “Smurf Suite,” which allows the agency to turn smartphones on and off, use the microphone and geolocation, and hide all of its actions from the user. Snowden says that the NSA has spent around $1 billion USD trying to develop similar technology.
Security Researcher Wins $24,000 Bounty From Microsoft
The general impression that we have of hacking is that it’s flat out illegal. In truth, hacking itself isn’t illegal at all. If you ever go into a “head shop,” they’ll let you know that they’re not selling “bongs,” they’re selling “water pipes.” Like a water pipe, hacking is just a tool, and what you use it for may or may not be legal. One of the legal things you can do with hacking is claim bounties from companies like Microsoft and Google, who offer rewards to people who can find security vulnerabilities in their websites, apps and services. A security researcher recently cashed in on a $24,000 reward for finding an easy hack through OAuth, the authorization code used for Outlook.com and Microsoft Live accounts. If you ever get tired of your dayjob, digital bounty hunting might be a fun career choice.
15 Year Old Gets 6 Months For Hacking NASA
A 15 year old hacker known as c0mrade made news last year after hacking NASA, leading to a 21-day shutdown of the computers supporting the international space station, and poking around in Pentagon weapons computer systems, intercepting thousands of emails and stealing passwords. After six months of plea-bargaining, he’s finally been sentenced to six months. Had he been tried as an adult, he’d be looking at quite a bit more time than that.
The everyday threats we have to deal with in cyber security are kind of ordinary, but these three stories prove that hacking really is just like the movies every now and then.