Looking at headlines, it’s easy to believe that the typical hacker is a member of a secret organization with the reach of the Illuminati. With viruses that commit espionage, malware that takes computers hostage, identify theft, phishing scams and new threats cropping up every day, it’s easy to think that every cyber criminal has the resources of a super villain. But mega hacker collectives like Anonymous, LulzSec and AntiSec aren’t the only ones that can cause problems.
These groups may make headlines, but what could be more disruptive to digital life is the fact that just about anyone can orchestrate a digital attack. Some do it for profit, some do it for a cause, but sometimes, it’s just about having a little fun. Japan Daily Press columnist Adam Westlake recently reported on an incident in which 15-year old was accused of intentionally distributing a computer virus.
“His ‘virus’ doesn’t empty your bank account or record the keystrokes of your passwords,” Westlake wrote. “It makes pictures of octopuses appear on the screens of the computers it infects. They’re not even threatening octopuses!”
The situation isn’t exactly what most would expect when they hear the term “hacker,” but it did cause some issues. The program infected a total of 400 machines, including one belonging to a student from southwestern Japan. It’s easy to imagine the headache that could have caused if a school’s entire computer lab were suddenly overrun by octopuses (fun fact: The common belief that the plural of “octopus” is “octopi” stems from the myth that the word comes from Latin when it actually originates from Greek)!
What’s worse is that small programs like that may not necessarily show up on antivirus software’s radar. The threat of unknown malware has lead many organizations to turn to application control for security, but it’s also a good way of ensuring productivity.
Anti-Executable for education
They say the customer always knows best, but in the world of technology, the end user sometimes knows better. After all, customer reviews can be affected by brand loyalty, which is why it’s important to consider specific use cases when considering new technology solutions. A Yahoo! Answers question from few years ago highlights such a use case with Faronics Anti-Executable.
The question: How do I get by Faronics Anti-Executable Block?
The user further explained that he or she tried to play games during class, but the high School’s CAD teacher used Anti Executable to block both Halo and Trackmania. The resourceful student attempted to use a keylogger to grab the instructor’s password, but Anti Executable blocked that too. After being unable to get past the program, the user turned to the Yahoo! community for an answer.
And the best answer, chosen by voters:
“I’d recommend you find something else to do during boring class time. We already gave up with Faronics Anti-Executable. There is no way around that program (It is easier to sneak a PSP and fool the teacher than breaking that stupid Anti-Executable program).”
Have you heard of any other non-threatening digital pranks?