Tracking Down the Hackers

If you have seen The Matrix you will have some idea of how sinister the world of computers could be. It' s not like that really (we hope!), but computing is certainly not always confined to the innocent activities of typing text, sending emails and downloading web pages. Enter the world of the hackers.

Hackers are amateur computer wizards who spend their time playing about in parts of cyberspace most of us have very little comprehension of. For example, they break into classified websites, take control of distant computers or create viruses. Much of what they do is harmless, but sometimes their activities break the law and can even be dangerous to others. One favourite pastime of theirs is to break through the security surrounding military websites.

In recent years hacking has been gradually increasing and, in many cases, has become more malicious and destructive. A new word has appeared to describe a malicious hacker a 'cracker' . 'Cracking' involves invading computer systems and doing deliberate damage taking control, stealing or destroying information, etc. The San Franciscobased Computer Security Institute estimated that crackers caused over $236 millionworth of damage in 1997. No doubt we will be seeing a lot more of this high-tech crime in the new millennium.

Barnaby Harward