Last Updated on September 22, 2021 by Calvin C.
It’s clear that cybercriminals prowl the internet like hyenas hunting for their next meal. One of the ways that they cause distress to victims is by hacking computer systems. In this article, we look at the uses of a hacked computer so that you know how valuable your device is to these attackers.
Background of computer hacking
Hacking was popularized in the 90s and is still taking place today.
Either a hacker is someone with advanced computer knowledge or someone who uses hacking software written by others, a group called script kiddies.
In both instances, the intention is mainly to compromise the target system and gain something out of it.
- The main motives of hackers include:
- Financial gain
- Corporate espionage
- State-sponsored attacks to gather intel
Let’s look at the various uses of a hacked computer.
1. As part of a botnet
When a hacker takes control of your computer, it can be recruited to be part of a botnet.
A botnet is composed of inter-connected devices that are under the control of the hacker and they perform specific malicious tasks online.
- Uses of a botnet include:
- Sending spam
- DDoS attacks
- Click fraud
- Solving Captcha
- Bitcoin mining (you can prevent this by using a hardware wallet. Check out 12 best wallets)
- Sending spyware
- Ad fraud
- Anonymizing proxy
Infection of a computer with bot malware occurs in various ways.
Common ways that increase the risk of getting infected include opening suspicious email attachments, clicking dubious links and not taking measures to hide your online activities.
The attacker begins with the hacker building or acquiring a Trojan with bot malware or exploit kit.
With that in place, the hacker capitalizes on vulnerabilities in the victim’s computer infects it with bot malware.
The bot instructs the computer to connect to the botmaster, who keeps logs of the bot activity.
Once the computer is in the hands of the botmaster, it performs specific tasks that have been described above.
In addition, the botmaster can rent out the botnet to other cybercriminals and make money.
If you don’t want your computer to be turned into a zombie, it’s time to consider browsing the web anonymously using a VPN.
2. As a web server
Compromised servers can also be used to set up malicious websites by the hacker.
These sites attract victims and if their devices are vulnerable they are infiltrated.
- Sites that can be hosted on a hacked server are:
- Phishing site
- Spam site
- Piracy site
- Malware download site
- Child por–graphy site
If you have a server, it is important to keep the software up-to-date and run intrusion detection systems regularly.
Strong authentication is also necessary to discourage hackers from mounting an attack.
3. Email scam and spam
A hacked computer is also used to run email attacks.
These attacks come in many forms but the most popular email attacks are:
- Harvesting email contacts and associated accounts
- Webmail spam
- Running “stranded traveller” scams
Make sure you read about email security in another article I wrote so that you don’t fall victim to these attacks.
4. Mounting a hostage attack
One common use of a hacked computer is to carry out a hostage attack.
In most cases, the attacker extorts money from the victim after gaining access to sensitive, personal data.
Hostage attacks include:
- Webcam hacking
According to Statista, there was a sharp increase in ransomware attacks in 2016, with the number jumping to 638 million in 2016 from 3.8 million in 2015.
From there the numbers are hovering around 180 million per year, which is a very significant magnitude.
5. Stealing financial credentials
It’s common practice to store sensitive data like financial credentials in a computer.
Once the hacker takes control of your computer, malware can scan folders and extract any information that is important.
This information includes:
- Bank details
- Credit card details
- Other financial account details
With all this data, the attacker can easily empty your accounts.
Make sure you activate 2-FA that uses authenticating softwares like Google Authenticator.
2-FA using SMS is no longer secure as highlighted in this article on SIM card fraud.
6. Stealing credentials of online accounts
Similarly, once hackers have sunk their teeth in your computer system, they can view login credentials of your other online accounts.
Browsers have an option to store passwords and usernames.
This is not advisable from a security viewpoint because a hacker can easily login to all your online accounts.
Accounts that can be targeted include:
- Online stores
- Gaming sites
- Website FTP credentials
In some cases, the hacker takes control of social media accounts and damages the victim’s reputation.
This is common on platforms like Twitter and Facebook but it can happen on any social media platform.
There are tactics you can use to be safe on social media and these are described in another article I wrote.
7. Access to virtual goods
Hackers can also steal virtual goods and cash them online.
- Game characters
- Licence keys
- Virtual currency
- Game powers
- Virtual tools
After going through the various uses above, you can see that a computer connected to the internet is a valuable asset to hackers.
Protection against hackers requires a multi-layer approach because they constantly change their modus operandi.
One proven way to be secure and private online is to use a trusted VPN service.
This encrypts your traffic and changes your IP address so that your location is not traceable.
When you use one, you are light years ahead of someone who doesn’t and this is significant when you are working with sensitive data.
- The overall best VPN that I recommend is NordVPN.
You can read about other VPN services in other sections of the site but to be safe, use the best.
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