Like other powerful tools, technology can be used for great good or for great evil. Learn how people use technology for wrongdoing so you can protect yourself—or use their tricks to actually do good. Here are the top 10 “evil” ways you can use technology.
This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.
10. Spoof Caller ID
Pranksters and scammers use caller ID spoofing to take advantage of us—in common telephone scams, for example, where “Microsoft” calls to warn you your computer has a virus and they’ll help you fix it (for a fee). There are legitimate reasons why you might want to make your phone number show up differently on caller ID (e.g., place a call to a young kid as Santa or Cinderella), and there are lots of spoofing apps and services to help you do this.
9. Uncover Blurred Information in Photos
People blur out the information in photos to make sure sensitive information isn’t readable to others, but it turns out this strategy isn’t that secure—particularly when you’re trying to hide numbers. The takeaway: Don’t use simple mosaics to blur your image.
8. Create a USB Password Stealer
It’s bad enough that major password leaks happen so often, hackers can steal our passwords with just a USB flash drive and a single script, grabbing our cache of passwords stored in our browser and elsewhere. You might want to test your vulnerability to this trick yourself, but either way, to protect yourself, remember the security basics: always have physical control over your computer, use a secure password manager (here’s how they compare, security-wise), and turn on two-factor authentication.
7. Get into a Private BitTorrent Tracker or Usenet Indexer
Private trackers and usenet indexers are great communities, but they take dedication and they’re hard to get into. While some of our strategies for getting into one aren’t necessarily “evil,” you’ll be working your way into exclusive private file sharing communities.
6. Spoof an Email Address
Caller ID isn’t the only thing spammers spoof. If you’ve ever gotten a strange, spammy email from a friend—or, worse, your email account just spammed all of your contacts—you know how annoying spoofed emails can be. Here’s how data thieves spoof email addresses to phish for information or con us into sending money to Nigerian princes. If you think you’ve been impersonated, you’ll need to take some advanced steps to secure your account.
5. Snoop on Someone’s Phone or Computer Without Them Knowing
Is your company monitoring you? Possibly. The NSA? Your ISP? Yeah. But it’s pretty easy too for a friend or family member to dig into your phone or computer without you knowing—whether by gaining physical access to your phone or computer or using remote monitoring tools. Parents might snoop on their kids, significant others might snoop on their partners out of insecurity or suspicion, whatever the reason, covering those snooping tracks isn’t that hard. If you think you might be the one being snooped on, look for signs any of those stealthy steps weren’t followed. If you share a computer with someone else, learn how you can still protect your privacy with this guide.
4. Crack a Wi-Fi Password
WEP passwords are too easy to crack with tools like BackTrack making it super simple to get into a WEP-”protected” router. That’s why everyone recommends using WPA—or really, WPA2, the latest encryption standard. WPA can be cracked too, though! That is, if your router has WPS turned on. So disable WPS if you can or try open-source router firmware like DD-WRT, which doesn’t support WPS.
3. Hack a Wi-Fi Network
Why would someone want to steal your router’s password? Besides stealing your Wi-Fi bandwidth, to spy on everything going on over your network, of course. It’s amazing the DIY creations hackers can use to sniff out network packets. Fake routers and networks, created with the help of Kali Linux, for example, can be used to trick machines into connecting, and then eavesdrop on network communications. (Yes, there’s a lot of spoofing going on in this article!) This is a good time to remind you to check your router’s settings—especially these top security settings.
2. Sniff Out Passwords and Cookies
This is somewhat related to hacking a Wi-Fi network, but it’s more about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi. It’s really easy for hackers to steal your logins and snoop on your browsing session, when the network is not secure or you’re connecting to sites that don’t use HTTPS. To protect yourself, your best bet is to use a VPN whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi or follow some of these other safety precautions.
1. Break into a Computer
Finally, you might shudder to know it’s pretty easy to break into a computer, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Mac—even if your computer is password protected. If your computer is encrypted, however, such as with BitLocker (for Windows) or FileVault (on Mac), you’ll be protected from some of the more common methods hackers use to steal data from a computer. You’ll also want to make sure you have a very strong, unique password for your computer login. If you get locked out of your computer, however, and forgot your password, well, now you know how to get back in.
Illustration by Nick Criscuolo.