Having been in the mainstream since the turn of the new millennium, the internet has been a growing target for bad actors. Cracking, hacking, and negative behavior of all types permeates the evolution of the internet and continues to this day. Yet, despite being such an active component, many of the specific forms of attack have evolved considerably. Taking a look back and comparing some classic hacks to their contemporary counterparts and their solutions, we want to see how much has changed.
The Dreaded Popups
Online advertising in the older internet was the wild west, where the unavoidable bandits were the ever-present popup ads. Simply browse a website and you could have two or three pop-ups appear, with each loaded window producing more in a seemingly endless loop. To combat this, many users turned to ad-blockers.
In response to ad-blocking software, the entire shape of the online advertising world changed. Ads of reputable websites are now held to strict standards, where pop-ups are avoided in the mainstream. This mean ad-blockers were no longer necessary in most cases, but there was still the risk of malvertisement.
Malvertisement is where regular trustworthy ads are intercepted and replaced by damaging alternatives. These can install malware on a person’s computer, effectively recreating the threats of older popups. The solution to this problem is found on the publisher side, where websites can use protection services to prevent ingress from malvertisement, again rendering legitimate sites safe if implemented.
The hacking of a person’s passwords used to be as simple as basic brute force attacks. In these, hackers would simply run through lists of common passwords or every password possible until a match was found, giving them access. Protecting against these hacks was annoying, but could be generally accomplished through longer passwords and the addition of numbers and symbols.
Today, the growth of the internet has made these attacks change tack. Though brute-forcing longer a password is less possible than ever due to anti-flooding solutions, there are other avenues. These are usually found through data breaches on major platforms, where user information is stolen. This information is then cross-referenced, where AI can predict the same user using the same password on another site. Preventing this unfortunate reality can now be accomplished through using unique passwords for every site, or utilizing two-factor authentication wherever possible.
Direct Malware Programs
The early internet was flooded with ostensibly helpful software that performed some positive functions but had hidden malware beneath the surface. Toolbars were some of the most common examples of these in action, with others like Bonzi Buddy become memes in their own rights.
The big changes to direct installation malware predominately came from the development of trusted download sites. Illustrated by Google Play and iOS stores on mobiles, and the Windows Store on PC, these systems check data for users. In doing so, they maintain strict levels of compliance to avoid malware directly. The exception to this which must be noted is optional installers located on many random website programs, which can include piggybacked malware. In this instance, always going through the advanced installation process and removing extra programs should do the trick in keeping devices safe.
As we’ve grown so much alongside the internet, digital security has undergone fascinating evolution. It’s harder than ever for hackers to do damage directly, and so they had to become much wilier. That said, as long as you keep up-to-date with basic security measures like those outlined in this article, most users shouldn’t see a problem. Teaching your parents to abide by the same rules, however, might not be so easy.