Hacking is the act of gaining unauthorised access to data within a computer system or network. While we tend to associate it with being a threat to celebrities and big corporations, hacking is more common than you may think: it can happen to almost anyone, and almost anyone can be a hacker.
It’s important to note that the term hacking covers a wide range of behaviours and motives. While hacking is usually wrong — and unlawful — there are cybersecurity experts who believe that certain hacking (sometimes referred to as ‘white hat hacking’) can act as the Internet’s immune system by encouraging it to become stronger through exposing its vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, hacking has the potential to be incredibly harmful to society. Attacking networks or developing malicious malware is illegal and the penalties can be severe.
crimeware, hijackers and ransomware
viruses, worms and trojans
bots and botnets
ethical hacking and security research (e.g. system auditing).
Once scammers have hacked into a computer or mobile device they can access personal information, change passwords, and restrict access to systems. They will use information obtained to commit fraudulent activities, such as identity theft or they could obtain direct access to banking and credit card details.
You’ve probably heard at least one news story about an adolescent whose proficiency with coding landed them in legal trouble: just this year, a teen from Melbourne hacked into Apple’s network and named the stolen files ‘Hacky Hack Hack’.
While it goes without saying that this behaviour is wrong and should not be encouraged, it’s important for young coders to have a safe and lawful outlet to develop their skills - as it’s often a lack of such outlets that leads to this type of misbehaviour. ‘White Hat’ hacking can actually be a legitimate career path for young people, so it’s important to ensure that they don’t nurture their coding skills by illegally trying to break into networks.
Your child might be practising hacking if they:
spend most of their free time alone with their computer
have few offline friends, but talk extensively to online friends about computers
are online so much it affects their sleeping habits
use the language of hacking, with terms such as ‘Bots, Botnets, Cracking, Keylogger, Phishing
refer to themselves and their friends as hackers or script kiddies
have multiple social media profiles on one platform
have multiple email addresses
can easily break our bypass network filters or parental controls
can connect to the wifi of nearby houses (especially concerning if they have no legitimate reason to have the password).
Hacking is a habit that tends to start during adolescence. Children who are naturally proficient with technology and coding may become curious and experimental. Furthermore, it’s normal for teenagers to start pushing the boundaries and taking risks, and hacking is becoming a common act of youthful defiance for today’s truly digital generation of children.
The important thing for parents to do is respond proactively, rather than reactively. If your child shows signs of being highly digitally literate and curious about technology, be sure to have conversations with them early on about safe and responsible behaviour. It can be hard for young people to fully grasp the gravity of their actions, or to realise the seriousness of the consequences. Be sure to discuss the legalities of hacking before their actions get them into trouble.
At Family Insights, we know that the practice of hacking can be a slippery slope. Our revolutionary app monitors network behaviour and can detect when a child has accessed harmful content that could be indicative of unsafe or illegal activities such as hacking. If such a threat is identified within the app, parents will receive a real time alert containing information and advice on what to do next.
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InfoWorld. 11 signs your kid is hacking and what to do about it