When the internet became more user-friendly in the mid to late 90’s, it opened the door to various security caveats — a criminal’s honeypot. The world connected via routers, servers, and computers is now a primary target for those looking to exploit data theft — a craft by which well-informed and expert computers users utilize a combination of various skills, knowledge, and tools to steal and/or compromise data stored on computers. Stolen data is used for a variety of purposes such as identity theft, political gain, financial crimes, and sometimes for merely stroking the ego.
Footprinting, a term used by the IT industry to define methods of reconnaissance used by computer hackers, is an interesting subject that one ought not to overlook — it is the act of discovering the security posture of individuals’ or businesses’ computer systems. In order to achieve data theft, unveiling security weaknesses is required. Discovering specific routers, operating systems, programs, and IP addresses linked to computers is generally the beginning — once that is known, flaws and security holes unique to those systems can be further probed. Although circumventing physical security such as doors, locks, cameras, and guards is a way to achieve this and could be part of a plan to penetrate a system, the ideal access would be remote access from a computer whereby a hacker can remain completely anonymous and hidden.
When a skilled hacker has obtained the security profile of a victim, it’s just a matter of time before the payload is delivered — the purpose for which the hacker started probing in the first place. Many users do not realize that antivirus software is considered a last line of defense as opposed to the front line. Becoming educated on common hacker techniques and designing networks around this knowledge is the ideal approach to hardening computers and networks against what inevitably follows a hacker’s footprinting attempts.