Hackers - Part 1
Aired: July 26, 1996

"Hacker". The word has come to symbolize the outlaw of the information age. Indeed, when it comes to creating mischief, hackers are in a league of their own. NewsCenter4's Anthony Moor begins a two-part look at the computer underground and what they can do to you.

To a hacker, what goes on inside these computers could be a goldmine. This is "Insweb," new Internet site where you can buy insurance online.

"Hackers come in for a variety of reasons, " says Darrell Ticehurst of Insweb. "They could download names and addresses of people who buy jewelry. They could alter online contracts, such as the sentence 'earthquake coverage not included.' We really have to worry about that 18-year-old with a 180 IQ and not much judgment [who] decides it's really funny to take out the word 'not' and see how long it takes you to notice it."

It could cost an insurance company billions. These pages list a single week's worth of serious hacking attempts.

"They're attempting to take over the computer," says Ticehurst. "They're attempting to grab hold of our disk drive, use it, read everything that's on there or load something onto it."

One hacker has repeatedly attacked Insweb seven straight days.

"What we're going to do now is trace that route to find out where that intrusion came from," says Ticehurst as he demonstrates on his computer.

"It came out of Travel Software Systems in Heidelborn, Germany. Now this is somebody who's made a serious attempt on the system."

But Ticehurst goes no further. No harm done, he says.

If someone does press charges, it might go to detective Keith Lowrey at the San Jose police high tech crimes unit.

"Hackers can do just about anything they want to do, " says Lowrey. "They can alter your credit. They can steal your identity."

One scam happens on popular online services.

"You get a flash message across your screen," says the detective. " It says, 'hey, your credit card or the account that you're using to charge your time online is no good, and we need you to re-enter another credit card with an expiration date.' And a lot of times that's coming from a hacker."

Once you type your credit card in, the hacker has what he needs.

But you may be surprised that the hacker's most valuable break-in technique doesn't rely on electronics. It's called `social engineering;' just a fancy name for the classic con game.

You see, even the best hackers need logon ID's and passwords. So before trying any sophisticated guesswork, hackers simply ask.

"You're on your computer terminal typing out," says Lowrey. " And all of a sudden you get a phone call. And the phone call says, `Hi. I'm Joe and I'm from your MIS department. What I need you to do is log off your system and log back on.' And he's [the hacker] sitting there watching you type it in."

He's hacked far enough into your system to watch from his computer what you're typing on yours. Some even inadvertently tell hackers their passwords over the phone. How real is the threat to you? Hackers say consider your "hack factor;" why would anyone want to break into your system?

Hackers tell me I raised my hack factor dramatically when I posted Internet messages asking for help on this story.

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