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Source: KFVS

Posted on November 20, 2002

      Computer hacking -- it is easy, and very prevalent. Who should be worried about it? Anyone who has a computer connected to the internet. We're all using computers more, and we're trusting our home computers with more personal information - stuff we wouldn't normally want anyone else to have. Then we get online, and the whole world has access to it. Before you know it, you could be hacked.

      "...If you have no security, you have no expectation of privacy..."
...these things spread (snaps) like thatŠ"
"...Oh, I felt very violatedŠ."
"...I have control, complete and total controlŠ"

      All the above comments are from people who know what they're talking about. People involved in the prevention of viruses as a full-time job.

      Your computer... a home tool for you, is a tempting target to thousands of hackers with the knowledge, the will, and the software to do whatever they want, when they want.

      "It is a window directly into your life, and in some ways, the most personal window that you have, of all the things that are in your house," says Jim White, of Automation Services in Cape Girardeau, an internet security firm.

      White's knowledge of protecting digital data is coveted by banks, businesses, and about anybody who wants to keep the bad guys from getting in. To get inside -- to see what the hackers see, we asked Jim and the company he works for to lay it all out, to show us how it's possible with the simplest of software to intrude on your privacy.

      "Oh yeah, you could really get nasty in there, you could do all kinds of things. I could even play around with people If I want toŠ.and send 'em messages, like: YOU ARE HACKED!" says White's cohort at Automation Services -- Scott Holmes, a Network technician.

      Holmes is setting up an unwitting victimŠ.another computer in their complex waiting to be hacked. But he's only simulating what his clients have already told him: "...if you have any kind of system at all, you need some kind of protection," says Linda Pannier of the St. Vincent de Paul Parish school in Perryville.

      Linda Pannier is the office manager, network administrator, and heart 'n' soul of the St. Vincent de Paul Parochial School complex in Perryville. Last year, they got hit with a virus that shut down every computer in their system - all 110 of them for 3 or 4 days; thousands of dollars spent to recover - and it all started with someone opening an e-mail.

      "We keep telling people, do not open e-mails, that you do not know where they're coming fromŠ.be very very cautious at what you're opening on the internet," says Pannier.

      And even the ones who are cautious get burned.

      "...it could've already happened, and you just didn't know itŠ"

      This network administrator recently hit by a hacker was so concerned about privacy he insisted on a hidden identity. We can tell you, though, he is the man in charge of computer networking in a Heartland city everyone knowsŠ.a former Automation Services employee - but even he couldn't forsee being hacked by someone across the Atlantic.

      "We were able to identify different hops that the hacker had made in order to reach us. Basically the trail led us to someplace in Europe, and that's as far as we could go. The trail went cold," admits the anonymous administrator.

      Hackers use persistence and blind luck to get in. They keep knocking on doors, and the ones that are closed have some sort of protection. But for those computers that are unprotectedŠ.it's like walking through an open door.

      Sometimes, hackers can even rattle the doorknobs a little to get in...just like your home.

      "People think that because the computer is inside the home, inside the apt., inside the safe 4 walls, safely cocooned, that it's just them and the computer. A lot of people never quite make that, uh, connection, the fact that there's a wire that goes out to this incredibly public arena," says White.

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