Our Website Caught Pig Flu

By Gina Simmons, Ph.D.

It poses quite a challenge to an anger management professional when your website gets hacked.  That’s exactly what happened to us two weeks ago.  Some lonely soul with too much time on his hacker hands sent visitors to our site on a joy ride through Chinese websites.  The hack sidelined our site building plans and forced us to practice what we preach.  Breathe in, 2,3,4….Breathe out 2, 3, 4…It’s taken us this long to recover.

The number of viruses in circulation tops 1 million according to a Times Online article.  The U.S. wins the productivity award for producing most of the viruses in circulation.  China, with the help of Russia, is creeping up on the U.S.  in a race to mess everything up.  Hacker researcher, Sarah Gordon, found that hackers and virus creators tend to follow a different code.  Hackers don’t respect those who merely spawn viruses because it takes less skill.  She reports that some fit the stereotype of the bright-but-maladjusted adolescent male while many do not.  Some call themselves “white hat hackers” pointing out vulnerabilities to organizations for free.  They love the challenge of the hack, but live by a do-no-harm credo.

The website MrCracker devoted to “all things hacking” reports several reasons why many people hack.  For every disgruntled geek creating a virus for revenge, there are several motivated by curiosity or boredom.  We live in a world now with state sponsored computer terrorism, bored smart teens looking to find significance, and multi-national corporations willing to do anything to get the competitive advantage.   Spyware, trojans, worms and random acts of crapulous coding make it a wonder any of us can get anything done with these machines.

Dr. Marc Rogers at Purdue University put together a helpful site with research on criminal computer hacking.  One study found no consistent personality type  that engaged in cyber-crime.  It did find that these humanoids rate higher in exploitative and manipulative behavior.  Many studies show that it’s easier to be cruel to those we can’t see.  Cyber-criminals often never see the suffering of their victims.

To keep your magnificent machine healthy make sure you follow these tips from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team:

  • Regularly back-up your hard drive so you don’t lose everything if attacked.
  • Scan everything for invaders before you download it.
  • Set your email to not automatically open attachments.
  • Get great anti-virus software and set it to run every time you turn on your computer.
  • Regularly update all your software.  Many viruses attack earlier versions of programs.
  • Use complicated passwords and pass phrases and don’t use dictionary words.
  • Don’t let your machine get slow.  Spyware and denial of use viruses slow down your system.
  • Disconnect from the internet when not using your computer.

Protecting your computer is a lot like pregnancy prevention.  No method of protection works 100% of the time with the exception of abstinence.  And even then, some one can attack you and force you to use a computer.