Inside the mind of a hacker: Alternate identities and varied behavioural patterns

The boom of information technology opened an entirely new world of identities and opportunities. Most users’ journeys in the cyber world started with the creation of an email address. That email address, which served as an online identity, eased communication between two users, breaking location barriers.

Fast-forward to today: A user can create as many accounts as they want across different platforms on the internet, using a wide range of devices such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops. This, however, also opened Pandora’s box in the cyber world.

Distinct identities and disparate behaviours 

According to a study, the internet strongly impacts the personality and behaviour of individuals. One of the core reasons for this change of personality is the cyber freedom that every user enjoys through a different identity. This allows them to express opinions and feelings that they might not in person.

For instance, a user with an inclination to a particular group can create a fake identity on social platforms to express their opinions or feelings that, if expressed in person, could invite unwanted attention or trouble. Further, they can also protect their social status by not being vocal about their opinions in person.

The hacker next door

Cybercrimes are on the rise, and hackers have started using sophisticated techniques to gain unauthorised access to data. When it comes to organisations facing cyberattacks, it often comes from external, internal, or related-party sources. However, in the case of targeted individual victims, the chances of the hacker being an acquaintance is high.

For instance, an individual real estate broker might face a cyberattack from a relative or a friend who knows the ABCs of hacking and has some basic knowledge regarding the victim’s business status.

While there are numerous techniques to hack into an individual’s account and impersonate them, the easiest way is to get to know them on a personal level and then exploit their weaknesses. Targeted attacks are often carried out by hackers using this technique.

The point here is that, when an individual falls prey to a cyberattack, it’s doesn’t always mean that the attack was carried out by an unknown individual or group. It could be a well-known acquaintance next door with an alternate identity.

Reasons for launching a cyberattack:

Attackers or hackers often capitalise on the weaknesses of their victims. This includes:

  • Technical weakness: The lack of victims’ expertise in technology or the lack of having technical strength to defend against a cyberattack is often exploited by attackers. In the case of individuals, they often fall prey to cyberattacks due to their lack of knowledge regarding technology. Organisations often fall prey to attacks due to poor security posture. This is also considered a technical weakness.
  • Social weakness: Social weakness leaves people vulnerable to clicking suspicious links, downloading malicious files, or providing sensitive information.

Further, hackers can launch an attack for a wide range of reasons, such as:

  1. Monetary gains: One of the main reasons hackers do what they do is for the monetary gains. Taking the real estate example, the hacker might have received information that the victim gained some profit from a recent sale. To get their hands on the money, the hacker can launch an attack, threaten the victim, and ask for ransom in return for the data.
  2. Damage a victim’s reputation: Cyberattacks can damage the reputation of the victim. For instance, if the victim is a significant person in society, if any of their sensitive details are brought to the public, it could cause controversies that impact their reputation.
  3. Revenge: Cyberattacks can also be launched to take revenge on someone. For instance, an attacker can hack the social media account of their friend who insulted them and post controversial messages that could cause harm to the other person.
  4. Political gains: State-sponsored cyberattacks are common. Political rivalry plays a major role in encouraging countries to launch cyberattacks against each other.
  5. Pleasure: Attackers sometimes hack for pleasure. For instance, say an organisation advertises that it has the best security system in the world. A hacker might see that as a challenge and hack into the organisation’s system just to get the pleasure of proving the claim wrong.

How uni-identity can help 

Uni-identity can be described as a unique identification code (similar to a Social Security number) that helps authenticate a user and also keeps a track of all the activities of the user on the internet. Further, when a user wants to create a new account on any website, they’ll have to furnish this number for authentication purposes.

If a user has a uni-identity to use while creating accounts on different platforms across the internet, it’ll be easier to tie up and track down user activities. Just like how travellers are required to hold an identity document that enables authorities to track down individuals, uni-identity can identify users on the internet.

For those using virtual reality spaces extensively, uni-identity is the need of the hour. With avatar assault becoming a threat in the virtual world, uni-identity would help identify attackers and prevent repeat attacks. With cyber fouling threatening the security posture of organisations, uni-identity will make it easier to identify stale accounts and clean up their environments.

On the flip side

Having discussed the benefits of uni-identity, there are certain challenges it brings that are necessary to cover, too.

  1. The major impact of cyberattacks: One of the major challenges in implementing uni-identity is that if an attacker gets their hands on the uni-identity of a user, they’ll be able to impersonate the user easily across different websites and applications. This will be a whole new level of identity theft.
  2. Authentication: Security experts have long been insisting on implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication to enhance the authentication system. With uni-identity, one of the major challenges that could arise is how the identity can be authenticated.
  3. Personal and official identities: Another problem with having a single identity is that it’ll be difficult to differentiate between personal and official identities. This can cause mayhem while onboarding an employee in an organisation and can further lead to security issues. With users always considered the most vulnerable link in a network, as and when a particular user gets compromised, their official account that might have other privileges could also be affected.

Wrapping up

Identity theft has become all too common. Having a single unique ID that can be mapped to every account of a particular user on the internet would make it significantly easier to track down cybercriminals and reduce cybercrimes. With the virtual world developing incessantly, establishing strict rules has become a necessity. Without them, survival in cyberspace is going to be a huge challenge.

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