What comes to mind when you think of hacking? Probably two hands maliciously poised over a keyboard in front of a computer screen with green Matrix-like text scrolling down, right? That’s because you’ve been fed a steady diet of cheesy stock photos from media outlets left without a better way to visually represent cyber threats.
But there’s a completely different kind of hacking that you — and the company you work for — may not be adequately prepared to combat: visual hacking.
Let me present you with two hacking scenarios. You tell me which one would be easier for a thief to pull off (even an relatively unskilled, non-techie thief for that matter).
Scenario one: a hacker develops a virus which infects thousands, or even millions of computers across the globe, enslaving them as part of a nefarious network known as a botnet. The hacker uses the combined computing power of their new network to attempt to crack your company’s digital security using a brute force (random password guessing) attack. This takes several hours or days and may or may not be blocked, either automatically or manually, by a savvy IT department.
Scenario two: a hacker uses their own smartphone to record you entering your phone pin, email password, password management software master password, etc., waits for you to look the other way and snags your phone.
Visual hacking is far easier for thieves to pull off than “traditional” software-based information theft. All it requires is a set of working eyes.
Is that person on the plane next to you reading your screen? How about the person in line behind you at the fast food restaurant? Could a ceiling-mounted camera be spying on you without your knowledge?
Here’s some facts for you to consider:
- Technology and worker mobility are allowing sensitive information to be accessed from more places and on more devices.
- Two-thirds of working professionals display sensitive information on mobile devices outside the office. (Thomson, Herbert H, PhD. “Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment Study.” 2010. People Consulting Services, commissioned by 3M.)
- Workers report a high incidence of their visual privacy being violated through visual hacking: 69% in the workplace, 55% while traveling, and 51% wile in a public places such as a cafe