Hackers. Who are they? Are they bad? Good? Is there a fine line between spying and hacking for the public interest? The short answers to these questions are yes and yes. And yes. Hackers don’t just target vulnerable POS systems. They encompass a worldwide network of clandestine techies whose ultimate goals are sometimes difficult to pinpoint.
The black hats
Who are the black hats? The “Guccifer” mentioned in the headline would fall into this category. These are hackers who attack machines or networks in nefarious ways. Examples of this include the aforementioned pseudonym’s gaining illicit entry into politicians’ and celebrities’ personal email accounts with the sole intention of making the contents of said accounts public. This category would also include those who attack POS systems with the purpose of obtaining restaurants’ and retail stores’ clients’ credit card information.
The white hats
White hat hackers are somewhat less common in that their purposes really do serve the common good. They are employed with specific instructions to attempt to hack into a system in order to see exactly how susceptible the network or computer is to outside forces. White hat hackers have discovered spies’ ability to access Goldman Sachs’ conferences via the company’s computers’ webcams. They also attend an annual conference in Las Vegas to show off their hacking skills and subsequently share their privacy-intruding prowess with fellow techies. What the best POS systems in the country might find is that they too need to put a white hat hacker to work in order to mitigate potential attacks before they happen.
And everything in between
The “in between” category is mostly comprised of government branches that breach security in the name of “public safety” (ahem, Eric Holder vs. the Associated Press) or groups like Anonymous who, ironically, seek to expose corruption within the public sector and corporate behemoths. So how do proprietors with the securest POS systems keep their hardware and software hacker-free? These measures include:
- Finding intuitive POS software that encrypts all information (so if there is a virus attack, all the hacker will obtain is useless data).
- Safeguarding sensitive data through PCI compliance.
- Seeking out POS software bundles that are isolated from other networks.
- Ensuring that their software speeds up the customer service process and comes engineered to work with hardware that cannot easily be infected with more traditional malware.
Who knows, perhaps what the future holds for small business owners is some white hat hackers who can anticipate malicious POS system attacks far in advance.