From Facebook, to Twitter, to the U.S. government, high-profile hacking is plaguing the global cyber network.
In January, both Twitter and Facebook systems were hacked. Facebook claims that no evidence has been found connecting any user accounts to the information that was hacked. Twitter was not as lucky, with roughly 250,000 user accounts’ information compromised in the attack.
At Tech, the last major security breach on campus was in March 2011. One virus caused 350 social security numbers to be exposed.
“Hacking, in a sense, is any action of using someone’s computer or name or anything that isn't yours without permission,” said Randy Marchany, Virginia Tech University IT Security officer.
In order to hack, an attacker must crack computer-based security systems to reach personal information of an individual or a company. Most cyber security systems require certain codes — hackers try to exploit those codes and find weaknesses to make their attack.
“Basically what these hackers are doing is tinkering,” Marchany said. “They know how to use flaws to take over your computer.”
While students’ information is at the same risk of being accessed by a hacker, they are more likely to get their valuables stolen.
“Credit card numbers, addresses and other personal information are stored on your computer with or without your knowledge,” Marchany said. “(Hackers) gain access to your machine somehow, and then boom — your information is out of your control.”
The IT Security Office on campus is constantly creating tools available for anyone at the university to search their computers for personal information, in order to limit what is available to outsiders.
"Part of it, as college students, is creating good habits that you can keep up with in the future,” said Janine Hiller, professor of business law. “You’re cultivating habits as a college student that will help you when you are part of an organization that has even more cyber security risks."
These forms of cyber-terrorism is widespread.
Recently, there have been attacks on computer systems in U.S. government organizations and agencies. The Chinese Military has been linked to these attacks. According to National Public Radio, one specific unit of the Chinese military has attacked “over 141 corporations across 20 different industries,” mostly in America. That specific unit in China may be one of about 20 active cyber spying groups.
“If (hackers) get control of your computer, they want to do one of two things: they want to steal your information, or steal access to use your computer to hack other sites,” Marchany explained.
The Tech IT system detects and responds to probes from around the world on campus 24/7. The primary purpose of the office is to make the campus aware of what the dangers are and some of the things students can do to protect themselves.
"The problem is that you hardly ever find the people who do this. The percentage of people who are caught is tiny and they can be anywhere in the world,” Hiller said. “It would be better to prevent someone from hacking into your computer in the first place.”
Marchany suggests students also keep up to date with privacy and security options on social networking sites.
“The first thing to remember on any social networking site is that you’re the product,” he said.
According to Marchany, anytime something is offered for free, that means that any information you give them can be sold to others.
“Nothing is really free,” Marchany said. “You pay a price in giving up your own information.”