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How to Hack: Lesson One

Assignment: Know your computer.

Thinking about how you use a computer helps you understand it.
Many people don't understand that computers are actually worthless. Before you get in an uproar, think about it. A computer is worthless when you compare it to the value of the information or services that the computer provides.

For example, what would happen if your computer contracted a virus? In theory, your computer hardware still works. You should have the disks that your programs came on, so you can reload the software. Therefore you can reload the software on the hardware, and you are back to normal. Right?

Most people know that if you lose everything on your disk, you've also lost the information on your disk.

What happens to people who lose their Quicken database? They lose track of their bank account. What about if you lose your resume and you're in the middle of a job search? You have major problems. What happens at work if your computers go down? In many cases, people sit around and do nothing until they come back up-- and what does that cost your company or their customers?

With all that in mind, here's your assignment:

  1. Think about what would happen if something happened to your computer. What would happen if there was a virus, your hard drive was wiped out, or there was a fire that destroyed your computer? What would it cost you? How could you recover?

  2. Think about what applications you run on your computer. Also consider what you use the computer for. Do you use it primarily to browse the Internet, or do you use it for your checking account and writing term papers? Obviously, this implies the level of effort that you should use to protect your computer.

  3. Understand the business and personal necessities of your computer. This way you can start to figure out how you should protect it. (Readers should review my Three Golden Security Rules column to figure out what they could be doing.)

And how does all that help you become a hacker? Simple. Thinking about how you use a computer helps you understand it.

Personally, the reason that people think I excel at penetration testing is because of the results that I get. And how do I get those results?

I learn what an organization thinks is valuable-- then I steal it. I figure out which are the most critical corporate computers-- then I take them over. I find out what are the most critical systems in a bank-- then I control them (and therefore the bank). This way I spend my time efficiently, while making a tremendous impact on company management. It is this mindset that gets me the reputation of being one of the best in the world at what I do.

After you finish this assignment, you should have a good feeling for the importance of your computer in your life. It might not be that important for some people. But if you are like most of my readers, you should have more of an appreciation for protecting your computers. Maybe you can even help other people come to the same revelation. Once you've done that, you're on your way to becoming a security professional.


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