1. Lucky letter

The lucky letter is one tactic used by would-be thieves to rob you of your hard-earned cash. Essentially, the lucky letter is an email or note mailed to you that suggests you’ve won something of extreme value. Maybe it’s a car. Maybe it’s a new computer.

WXYZ Detroit

Whatever it is, the thing you supposedly won is only a click away. To get it, you must navigate through the suggested link, enter any requisite info, and, as they will generously tell you, wait for the package. The thing is, they’ll ask you for the info they can then use to bilk you of all your money. Never give away your Social Security number or banking info to such suspect claims.

2. Glued phone

Gluing things together has been a common tactic for pranksters around the world. One such prank is to glue a quarter to the ground and watch people struggle to pick it up. Another tactic that is far more incendiary is to glue a phone to the ground.


The tactic here is one of distraction. When you’re trying to pry the phone from the ground, thieves can grab your purse or handbag. People have reported thefts from such strategies. If you see a phone on the ground, then, you shouldn’t stop for too long to try and pick it up. Or, if you do, do so safely.

3. Service staff

Here is a problem that you wouldn’t really expect. Service staff could actually be fakes—people disguised such that they can gain entry to your hotel or bedroom. When they do, they can then rifle through your belongings and take what they would like. You would be worse off because of it.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, the best thing that you can do is to make sure your most cherished valuables are well hidden. Or, better yet, you could ensure that no such valuables remain unattended. This would likely be the best protection against this particular method of thievery.

4. Broken camera

Here, you can get bamboozled into another undesirable situation. The strategy is to get you to hold a camera to take a picture of the person. Then, as you try to take the photo, you realize that the camera is broken. When you hand it back to them, however, you run into some problems.

Getty Images

When the owner takes their camera back from you, they start to look angry. They then blame you for having broken their camera and try to demand that you pay for it. While most of these situations you can easily shrug off, some might be more difficult or unsafe. We recommend you just be selective in who you take a photo for.

5. Runaway taxi

Taxis aren’t as much of a necessity as they used to be. But even as their market gets split between ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, this problem continues to develop. The problem here is that the driver takes what does not belong to them.

Taxis New York CityTaxis New York City
Wikimedia Commons

In some instances, these people will pretend to help you take your luggage to your room or destination. What they do next is take all of your belongings and run. Such a tactic is more likely to work if you’re a tourist in the area and overwhelmed by the travel. Our recommendation: Be mindful of who you let help you.

6. Fake ticket

Fake tickets are an especially poignant concern for concertgoers. Here, in a desperate attempt to get a last-minute ticket or better spot in a venue, you will shell out some extra cash to a scalper offering salvation. A new ticket, he says, that will get you to the first few rows. You should be skeptical.

Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Unfortunately, many of these tickets are actually just fakes. And the result is that you’ve just given your hard-earned cash to someone who most definitely does not deserve it. What’s worse is that you are now stuck with no ticket or your old ticket to use.

7. Fake cop

This is a particular virulent fraud. Here, a thief will impersonate a police officer and attempt to get you to give up extremely valuable information about yourself or your finances. Since the person is a police officer, you may feel inclined or obligated to assist them.

cops standing on the streetcops standing on the street

Another strategy they will implement is to check your wallet and, while browsing through, take out money without you even realizing it. They can also, if you let them, enter your house and take your belongings. While both of these tactics are risky for the impersonating police officer, they are possible outcomes. We recommend you ask for credentials.

8. Sleight of hand

Here, burglars will do something to distract you and then use the distraction to steal your things. One of the most common ways for them to do this is to spill something on you or trip in front of you. Once they have your attention, the mischievous thievery can begin.

Photo by Schöning/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Oftentimes, these people are well equipped with the skills to discreetly steal. They could, for instance, take your watch while you’re looking at the spill or trying to help the tripped person. Whatever it is, to avoid this tactic, you should be on the lookout at all times. Keep safe.

9. Holding the baby

If a stranger ever asks you to hold their baby, you should turn around and run immediately. There is not a distance far enough to get you safely away from this tactic. Ultimately, the strategy works by the person getting you to hold their baby (either by asking or by making it seem like the baby might fall). And then, once you’re holding it, they implement the theft.

woman holding baby on the streetwoman holding baby on the street

Once you hand back the baby, you might realize that you’re a little lighter. This might either be from the person who dropped the baby, or their partner, who you didn’t realize was walking closely behind you. Either way, you have been lifted of some precious items. The only recourse here is to be more observant.

10. Credit card fakes

Another way that people will steal your belongings is to manufacture a fake reader for ATMs. Here, you slide the card into the reader, log in, and go about your business. Little did you know, however, that this particular ATM had an illegal attachment.


This attachment has been plagued with code-reading software that the thief can use to take your credit card information. Now, after you have finished at the bank, the thief can access and use your info. This is a problem. To deal with this possibility, you should be sure that the ATM you’re using is safe and free of such machinery.

11. Insecure websites

Secure websites are essential for any online transaction that you would like to do. If the websites are not secure, any of the info you enter might be accessible by third-party viewers. If this is the case, your info can then be used by these people to get new credit cards or loans.

Wikimedia Commons

When loans are made in your name, the problems become bountiful. You can accrue debt, lose credit, and other such problems. The best way to protect against this form of stealing is to ensure that there’s either a lock picture or “https” at the beginning of the URL. If there isn’t, don’t give them your info.

12. Hacking

Hacking is one of the strategies employed by the more tech-savvy thief. Here, the pilfering villain will find a way to access your information directly from your computer or smartphone. With this, the only real protection is to implement fraud-reduction procedures as outlined by your bank.

hacker in the darkhacker in the dark

While these tactics aren’t the most common, they are possible. And to protect against these, your best strategy is to make sure that passwords are well-protected, secure, and strong. Other than that, you’ll just have to be on the lookout for anything unusual on your bank statement. If you find anything, make sure to act fast.

13. Shoulder surfing

Shoulder surfing is the name given to those who peer over your shoulder to try and gain your credit card or ATM information. Here, the onlooker will try to glean or photograph your info as you go about your otherwise regular spending.

Somalia Interior Minister, Abdirahman Mohamed Hussein, withdraws cash from an ATM during the opening ceremony of Premier Bank in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 21 May 2015. AMISOM Photo/Omar AbdisalamSomalia Interior Minister, Abdirahman Mohamed Hussein, withdraws cash from an ATM during the opening ceremony of Premier Bank in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 21 May 2015. AMISOM Photo/Omar Abdisalam

A few weeks go by, however, and you soon realize that all your savings have been liquefied and you are well into the red in debt. Such tactics are best protected against through caution when using your cards. Maybe hold your hand over the card’s numbers, or otherwise obscure possible vantage points. Either way should help to reduce the amount of damage done.

14. Fraudulent reports

Fraudulent credit reports can be extremely dangerous. Here, you will get a phone call or email from someone pretending to be a member of your bank. They will solicit you for information about your bank account or identity. Without knowing it’s a scam, you will submit this information to them and then suffer the consequences.

credit card fraudcredit card fraud

The way to deal with these fraudulent reports is to be extraordinarily cautious with whom you decide to give your information. If you know that the person online or via email is actually from your institution and reliable, go ahead and trust them. If they cannot provide good evidence that they work for the company, you should hang up immediately.

15. Dumpster diving

This is one of the more old-school tactics of stealing your info. The way it works is that the thief will sift through your garbage, trying to find discarded bank statements or other financial documents. The result is that they can gain valuable information that they can then use to steal your money. Yikes!

man in dumpsterman in dumpster
Wikimedia Commons

To protect yourself against those who would search through your garbage for information, you could use a shredder. With this technology in hand, you would ensure that those who do gain valuable information don’t obtain it in any decipherable form. Because of this, you will remain protected.

16. Mailbox threat

Sometimes, thieves will cut the middleman of distraction or wit by literally just stealing your mail. The hopes here are that the mail will contain more than just discounts to REI and new offers for credit cards. The hope is that the mailbox will hold valuable personal information.

mailboxes looking grossmailboxes looking gross

The only real way to protect against this type of stealing is to set up home security systems. With these, it doesn’t matter if your stuff is stolen or not. If somebody ends up trying to steal from your mailbox, you will have the thief captured on camera. Because of this, you’d be more likely to catch them if they did in fact steal anything.

17. Corporate breaches

Corporations, rather than flat-out thieves, are sometimes the ones to blame. Here, companies will have loopholes or flaws in the code that protects their user data. Sometimes, this code can fail or get hacked. The result is the theft of thousands of people’s data. This isn’t something that you or your company want to experience.

lock in pink around codelock in pink around code

The only real protection here is to put your data into a company that will not compromise your data. While determining the safety of different companies isn’t exactly easy, it is worth trying to ascertain. These leaks can be massively detrimental, so it’s best that you exercise caution.

18. Stealing a credit report

Some people will go the extra mile when they defraud you. Sometimes, this entails stealing your credit report. To get your credit report, these thieves will often pose as your employer. Occasionally this is all it takes to get people to hand over the report.


The only thing you can really do here is hope that your employer doesn’t get bamboozled. And, if they do, that your bank has a strong safety net against such fraud. If all else fails, you should keep a close pair of eyes on your accounts so that you can detect any changes once they come up.

19. Malware

Another way for these thieves to gain access to your privileged information is to install malware on one of your regularly used devices. This malware is built to read your information such that the thief can then transcribe it later. And, with your data in hand, stealing you money or identity becomes something of a cakewalk.

malware is gross and here it ismalware is gross and here it is

The only way to really avoid this is to revert into a sort of Luddism. Just kidding. Here, you can keep your computers and smartphone technology up-to-date such that they can detect when your tech does have malware problems. Then, when the thief tries to attack, you will be prepared.

20. Flash drive

If you find a flash drive on the ground, do yourself a favor and never use it. Certain flash drives have been encrypted with software that can infiltrate the drive it’s plugged into and send that information to another computer. This is one of the most dangerous types of thievery around.

a usb in the walla usb in the wall

When the other computer has this information, its owner can use it to steal your identity or extort you. Given that these things are extraordinarily undesirable, you should just never put one of these lucky thumb drives into your computer. You would do yourself and the world a favor by instead throwing the thing away.

21. Changing your address

Some of the clever ways in which these thieves pilfer your information are admirably crafty. In this case, they change your address so that your mail arrives elsewhere. Then, as we’re sure you could have guessed, critical information then gets delivered to the thief’s door.

woman looking at ipadwoman looking at ipad

The only way to really watch out for this type of trick is to make sure you get updates (or at least check regularly) on your personal info with the government. When you do this, you will know whether your address has been changed or not. You could also keep a keen eye on whether you’re actually receiving your mail. Either way would help.

22. Contact card readers

This is one of the scarier technologies we’ve discussed thus far. How it works is the scammer can read your credit card information by merely sliding their reader across your purse or wallet. The result is that they pick up your info with little more than a bump in the grocery store.

an atm in another languagean atm in another language
Wikimedia Commons

Protecting against such encounters is difficult. We would say that the best defense here is just a good set of safety nets: When your bank notices abnormal spending, they should be ready to email or text you. Then, with that information in hand, you can cancel the transaction and take the next steps to secure your information.

23. Obstructed view

When breaking into houses, one of the most frequently sought-after features for thieves is coverage. With houses, a backyard hidden by tall trees or fences provides coverage for those who would want to break in. This is often a reason that corner houses are targeted: They have more hidden spaces.


To avoid providing such shelter, you could make sure that parts of your backyard or elsewhere are always visible to neighbors and outside traffic. While the strategy will definitely cut down on privacy, it will make your home less viable for burglars. You can determine if the trade-off is worth it.

24. Casing

Casing is the term for prospective burglars checking out a property they’re interested in. They do this to get a grip on the details surrounding the property. This can include everything from your daily habits to neighborhood presence. You’ll want to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior.

man walking up streetman walking up street

The best strategy to fight these tactics is to monitor suspicious activity in your neighborhood. While your house might not be the one that’s being cased, you could help to prevent the break-in of other prospective houses. Either way, monitoring the people who enter and leave your neighborhood can be a key step to avoiding a burglary.

25. Unlocked doors

Another common tactic of the burglar is to check a property or vehicles for unlocked doors or windows. Such unlocked property is far easier to pilfer, and thus provides an alluring opportunity for the prospective thief. The easiest way to prevent such break-ins is to actually check whether your properties are locked up.

locked doorlocked door
Wikimedia Commons

Alternatively, you could get bars to encase your windows. That way, you could leave them unlocked and open and not worry about potential break-ins. Either way, you should check to ensure that your doors and windows are locked before you go about your day. You might even want to double-check.

NEXT: The “Internet of Things” means criminals can hack your phone, your car, and your fridge

1. The tale of three hackers

Throughout hacking history, hackers have not all been driven by the same motivations. There’s black hat hackers, who are malicious in their hacking. They’re the ones who hold computer files ransom, among other things. But there’s also white hat hackers, who use their gifts for good. White hats often work for companies to find cybersecurity holes, so the company can fix them.

Black white gray hat hackerBlack white gray hat hacker
IT Pro

But as with everything in life, hackers are not just black and white. There’s also gray hat hackers; they might break the law, but don’t have the malicious intent that black hat hackers have. Gray hats often find cyber vulnerabilities and sell the information to governments, who then use them to hack adversaries and suspects. But don’t think these hats are set in stone, some people trade hats, like going from black to white.

2. That time WarGames actually happened, sort of

Back in the 80’s, very few homes had their own computers and there were next to no laws governing cyber crime, because it just hadn’t been an issue yet. But a small group of young Milwaukee hackers, the 414s, showed the US government that maybe some regulation was needed.

Timothy Winslow HackerTimothy Winslow Hacker

The group hacked into far away computers via the Telnet, since computers were hooked into telephones back then. Plus, most computers still had the preset usernames and passwords written in their manuals, so the 414s easily got in. But they weren’t looking to steal data or make money; they had a completely different motivation for hacking.

3. 414s: Foiled by a Star Trek game

The 414s actually just wanted to find games on other computers and play them. They won high scores and when prompted to put in initials, they put “414” instead. And, similar to the movie WarGames (which came out in the midst of their hacking), they hacked a nuclear weapons research laboratory.

Neal Patrick HackerNeal Patrick Hacker
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

But that’s not how they got caught. They hacked into a medical company’s computers and accidentally deleted some of their files. When the FBI saw this, they planted a trap for the 414s: a Star Trek game. The hackers went back into the computers to play the game and left their tag, which the FBI eventually traced back to them.

4. Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think

The 414s that were over 18 were charged with making illegal phone calls with the intent of harassment, put on probation, and fined. But their digital handiwork had a lasting impact. Because of them, the government made new hacking laws. However, they weren’t the only ones influencing computer laws at the time.

WarGames movieWarGames movie

President Reagan was shook after he watched WarGames. “Could something like this really happen?” he asked his military adviser. A week later, the adviser told him, “Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think.” And after that, they started on a directive to secure computers in the US.

5. Max Headroom infiltrates Chicago TVs

Hacking isn’t just a part of the modern experience, it’s been around longer than you might think. In 1987, television watchers all around Chicago were surprised when their regularly scheduled programming was interrupted with a superbly creepy masked man. He looked like a popular TV character, the artificially intelligent Max Headroom.

Max Headroom TV HackMax Headroom TV Hack

In the pre-recorded clip, the guy’s audio is garbled and hard to understand, but he says various things like “I just made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds.” The background rocks behind him and the video is complete nonsense, but unnervingly reminiscent of The Joker. While the hacker was never found, FCC agents believe he transmitted his video by getting high up on a building with a dish antenna between the TV studio and the transmitter tower.

6. Kevin “Dark Dante” Poulsen

Lock-picker, forger, burglar, and hacker Kevin Poulsen stuck his nose in just about everywhere he shouldn’t have. As a teen in the 80’s, he dropped out of high school and hacked into computer systems containing military projects, Naval research, and defense plans. But since he was just 17, he was never charged.

Kevin Poulsen hackerKevin Poulsen hacker

He soon got a job working for SRI International, a research center that looks at everything from computer security to aircraft sabotage to military intelligence. He worked on securing their communications with the military by scrambling and encoding messages. But in his off hours, he was up to his old antics…

7. Rigging the radio contest and running from the FBI

The FBI found out Poulsen was hacking into and robbing Pacific Bell, a telephone service, regularly. He had fake IDs, birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and a variety of technological gadgets stashed in a storage unit. When the FBI found all this, Poulsen went on the run. The FBI went to his family’s house, but he escaped and then called them, taunting. The FBI traced the call to a circuit in Pacific Bell.

Porsche car redPorsche car red
Bring a Trailer

What followed was over a year of Poulsen getting up to no good and the FBI desperately trying to find him. One of his more memorable hacks happened when he hacked all the phone lines of a radio station to become the 102nd caller and ensure his win of a $50,000 Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet.

8. Getting into one too many places he didn’t belong

While a fugitive, Poulsen acquired the plans of a secret Army exercise, phone numbers of people being investigated by the FBI, secret Soviet phone numbers, and learned about a federal wiretap of a mobster. Meanwhile, he listened in on the phone conversations of the very people at Pacific Bell working to keep him out of their system.

Kevin Poulsen hackerKevin Poulsen hacker
Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

“Unsolved Mysteries” did a whole feature on Poulsen and asked for people to call in if they had any information about him. As soon as they got one call, all their phone lines went dead for thirty minutes. Coincidence? Perhaps. But the end was coming for Poulsen. He’d been seen in a grocery store…

9. Teen hacker turned wily fugitive turned… journalist?

Kevin Poulsen was arrested while grocery shopping. He started crying and asked to take his contacts out and grab his glasses, but when the FBI looked in his glasses case, they found a handcuffs key. In his car’s trunk, they found tons of telecommunications devices that “put James Bond to shame.” He’d also dyed his hair blonde.

Kevin Poulsen journalistKevin Poulsen journalist

Poulsen was charged with several crimes, including money laundering and interception of wire or electronic communications. While he was potentially facing 100 years in prison and $5 million in fines, he only served about five years. For three years after that, he was banned from the internet and computers. But Poulsen turned his life around and became a journalist. He now works for Wired and reports on computer, hacking, and security stories.

10. The guy who just wanted to answer customer questions

The Homeless Hacker, Adrian Lamo, hacked into The New York Times, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft in the early 2000s when he was about 19 years old. He got this nickname because he often set up shop in coffee shops and libraries. He didn’t make money or steal data from his hacking, but instead just had a bit of fun. This isn’t exactly a heartwarming case of a homeless man getting back on his feet in the traditional sense.

Adrian Lamo hackerAdrian Lamo hacker
Matthew Keys

He hacked into one company and actually answered customer service questions that the company had been ignoring. Some companies even thanked him for pointing out security holes. But in 2002, he hacked the Times and added his name to their expert sources database, which turned out to be a big mistake.

11. Lamo’s downfall

While Lamo was amused by his antics, the police were not. For 15 months law enforcement worked on the case, before arresting him in 2003. Lamo was sentenced to six months of house arrest, charged with paying a $60,000 fine, and was put on probation for two years.

Adrian Lamo HackerAdrian Lamo Hacker

Afterward, he went to college and studied journalism, eventually becoming a threat analyst for a private company. Before being arrested, Lamo lived an unconventional lifestyle. He mostly lived out of a backpack and loved exploring when he wasn’t on his laptop. Lamo passed away this year, but it’s unclear what caused it.

12. Jeanson J. Ancheta and his zombie army

Ancheta created a zombie army of computers, aka a botnet, and crashed major websites in 2004. To do this, he hacked 500,000 computers with malicious software (malware), some of which were US military computers, and used them to spam websites. In a botnet, the owner of the computer usually has no idea that their device is being used in the army.

Jeanson James Ancheta HackerJeanson James Ancheta Hacker

He even put out ads, saying he could take down any website for a price. But in 2005, this scheme became his downfall, when an undercover FBI agent posed as a client and caught him. He had to give up the money he made, pay a $16,000 fine, and spend five years in prison. He was 20 at the time.

13. ATM Skimming: hacking your debit card

One thing to look out for is something called “ATM skimming.” Nefarious people try to steal debit card information by placing skimmers on ATMs. The skimmer scans a card’s magnetic strip, stealing all the information stored on it. To get the PIN number, the thief will either put a small camera on or near the ATM or place a sneaky keypad over the real one. People have been skimming since the early 2000’s, but the methods have changed through the years.

ATM skimmingATM skimming

Some skimmers are fake card readers that can be just pulled off the ATM, but newer ones are small and can’t be seen from the outside of the machine. Try wiggling the card reader. If it moves, don’t use that ATM. Also, cover your PIN when you type it in, since some people still use cameras. Luckily, skimmers don’t work on chip cards, but chips aren’t used for every transaction.

14. Anonymous: the faceless, nameless hackers

In 2003, a hacker group started on 4chan and gave themselves the name Anonymous, since many posts on the site were under anonymous screen names. At the time, they were bored and just did harmless pranks together, but they changed over time. In 2010, they executed Operation Payback in response to attacks on file-sharing.

Collective Evolution

Anonymous, in support of free information, attacked websites that were working against file sharing. From then on, they did a number of cyberattacks in protest and rebellion. Anyone can join Anonymous, but some have used the name to do malicious things. A handful of members have gone to jail or been fined.

15. 21st century pick-pocketing

Around 2012, a certain kind of credit card became more popular in America. It was RFID enabled, meaning that people could pay with it without actually touching it to a card reader. However, security researchers were demonstrating how easy it was to steal the data from the cards. This made people nervous.

Credit card RFIDCredit card RFID

Now, there’s plenty of wallets, purses, and other items that can block RFID skimmers. However, despite all the worry, there haven’t really been any RFID-related crimes. Most RFID cards have encrypted data, so they can’t be used so easily. Also, there are easier and more cost effective ways to steal credit card information, so people don’t really RFID skim.

16. The mystery of Cicada 3301

In 2012, a mysterious image first graced the internet. It was white text on a black background that said, “Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck. 3301.”

Cicada 3301 textCicada 3301 text
The Independent

And with that, the puzzle solving began. People found the hidden message, which led to another puzzle, which led to another and another. At one point, the puzzle left the internet and even gave a phone number to call, which eventually led to a series of coordinates. People began to realize this puzzle was on a much larger scale than anyone had imagined…

17. Solving the Cicada puzzle

At the coordinates, which were in various countries, people found a poster with a picture of a cicada and a QR code. Which led to more puzzles. Eventually, the puzzle solvers got an email that said more about the mysterious group. Anonymous leaked it, despite the fact that it said, “DO NOT SHARE THIS INFORMATION!”

Cicada posterCicada poster

The email described them as an international group that believes tyranny and oppression must end, that censorship is wrong, and privacy is a right. It said they’re not a hacker group and that they don’t do anything illegal. Instead, it said they’re a think tank that research and develop “techniques to aid the ideas we advocate.” Their ideologies give a clue to who they are…

18. Who is Cicada 3301?

The leaked Cicada 3301 email gave more information about the mysterious group. It said “you have undoubtedly heard of a few of our past projects” and then asked the recipient questions like, “Do you believe that information should be free?” They offered membership to the receiver, but said “if you lie to us we will find out.”

Cicada runes image 3301Cicada runes image 3301
Uncovering Cicada Wiki

No one knows who’s behind the Cicada 3301 puzzles, but there’s plenty of speculation. Some think it could be a government intelligence agency like the CIA or NSA, but others think this unlikely. It could be some sort of underground organization that’s anti-establishment and driven by ideologies about privacy and information freedom. A new puzzle appeared online in 2013 and again in 2014, but there have been none since.

19. Ashley Madison: hacked!

In 2015, cheaters all around the Internet were shocked to find out their favorite marital affairs dating website Ashley Madison was hacked. A group or person called “The Impact Team” leaked the profiles of 32 million people. The Impact Team hadn’t done anything by that name before, so there was really no information about them.

Ashley Madison hackAshley Madison hack

Ashley Madison had been telling its users that for $19 it would erase all their profile data, but The Impact Team revealed that the data was still there. Ashley Madison offered $500,000 (Canadian dollars) to anyone who had information about the hackers. They haven’t found out who hacked them, yet.

20. Recruiting army hackers

With hacking becoming more common, governments and companies are looking to hire high class hackers for themselves. But not all these jobs have a straightforward application process. The US Army hid a clue in one of their cybersecurity recruiting commercials; it was a URL hidden on a computer screen that directed to a hacking puzzle.

Army hacking cyber security adArmy hacking cyber security ad
Business Insider

The Army announced that 9.8 million people saw the ad online, 800,000 attempted the hacking puzzle, and 1% passed the test. From there, the hackers could apply for a job in the Department of Defense. It was kind of like a very watered down version of the Cicada puzzle. Sort of.

21. Your refrigerator: hacked!

Like the botnet Jeanson J. Ancheta created when he hacked 500,000 computers, your home appliances can be drafted into a similar zombie army. Any appliance, like a fridge or washing machine, that has WiFi capabilities is part of the “Internet of Things.” Hackers can use the Internet of Things to attack websites and temporarily shut them down.

Smart refrigeratorSmart refrigerator

In 2016, Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, and other websites were all shut down for two hours by a botnet. This was a large scale denial of service attack on the service provider that the websites all share. The Internet of Things devices they used were largely webcams and DVRs. So, how secure is your new Internet-connected refrigerator?

22. The Internet of (your) Things

You might think that your refrigerator, or DVR or whatever, couldn’t possibly be part of a botnet. Well, a reporter at The Atlantic did an experiment with a simulated internet-connected toaster that was completely virtual. To hackers, it appeared to be a real toaster. In just 41 minutes, someone was trying to hack it. Perhaps the hackers made it make virtual toast?

Internet of thingsInternet of things

However, this may not be the fate of your technology. Fortunately, most appliances have better security than this poor virtual toaster, because of their router. However, we don’t know who used the botnet to take down Twitter. So, you never know, the zombie robot uprising may be starting in your very own living room.

23. Hacking is on the rise

As we become more and more entrenched in our digital lives, hacking becomes more common. Websites are increasingly victims to hacking; Google reported that about 30% more websites were hacked in 2016 than in 2015. Some of the common hacks are the Gibberish Hack, the Japanese Keywords Hack, and the Cloaked Keywords Hack.

Hacker image hackingHacker image hacking

The three typically create new pages within the website, with either gibberish sentences, Japanese text, or hidden words. These hacks make the website pages show up in Google searches a lot, but then when people click on them, they’re directed to things like fake brand merchandise ads or explicit websites.

24. How hackers get in your website

Hackers can get into websites in several different ways. Maybe they just find or guess passwords or perhaps they write a program that finds them through brute force guessing and checking. These methods are good against weak passwords that don’t have much variation, so it’s best to make a strong password that’s long, has letters, numbers, and symbols, and doesn’t use personal information.

Hacker keyboardHacker keyboard

Otherwise, hackers can try to exploit security holes in the website. For example, if the software is old and isn’t updated, it could be vulnerable to hacking. Old plugins and themes that no one’s maintaining anymore can also be security holes. However, sometimes hackers will trick people into giving their login information through phishing.

25. Equifax: hacked!

While Ashley Madison’s users may have deserved to be hacked, 147.7 million Americans did not deserve this. Last year, hacking made the headlines when Equifax, consumer credit reporting company, revealed that they’d been breached. 147.7 million Americans’ personal information was stolen off their servers, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses.

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Kim Komando Show

But we still don’t know who hacked Equifax and stole this information. The hackers got into Equifax servers via a vulnerability that Equifax knew about, but never fixed. For 76 days, they stole information from about 50 servers. Over the last year, Equifax reportedly spent $200 million on cybersecurity, so hopefully that pays off. In the meantime, it sucks for those 147.7 million people.

26. Marcus Hutchins, hero hacker

In 2017, the infamous WannaCry ransomware spread to hundreds of thousands of computers. It locked up people’s files and drives, demanding payment in return for unlocking. It spread through networks, from computer to computer. But 23-year-old Marcus Hutchins, a cybersecurity expert for a small security firm, came back from vacation and to the rescue.

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Fifth Domain

Hutchins didn’t realize what he was doing at first. He was trying to track WannaCry’s spread when he accidentally triggered a kill switch that stopped the malware from spreading. The cybersecurity community applauded Hutchins, as he’d stopped a terrible infection. However, a few months later, Hutchins got the opposite of praise…

27. Marcus Hutchins, indicted and arrested

Upon leaving a hacker conference, Marcus Hutchins was arrested in the Las Vegas airport. The arrest came at the end of a two year investigation that concluded he had created a malware called Kronos, that could steal usernames, passwords, PINs, and personal information from banking websites. According to law enforcement, he’d made the program and his accomplice sold it online.

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The security community was surprised and skeptical, worrying this arrest would harm the relationship between white hat hackers and law enforcement. They said in 2014, Hutchins asked on Twitter if anyone had a Kronos sample, so why would he do that if he’d made the malware? He’s currently awaiting trial.

28. Hacker’s Breakfast Club

Many hackers are just teenagers messing around with things they understand a little too well. However, what many of them don’t understand is the legality of their actions. In the UK, law enforcement is trying to find these young hackers and get them on a better track in life.

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The police caught several teen hackers and created a sort of Breakfast Club for them: they meet on Saturday mornings for rehab and career advising. The program teaches the teens what’s legal and what’s not, while also showing them legit cybersecurity career paths. Parents come too, because they often have no idea what their teen is doing on the computer.

29. This guy’s Tesla: hacked!

While car key fobs are deliciously convenient for no-hands vehicle unlocking, they come with some dangers. Long after the thieves were gone, a man regrettably watched two guys steal his Tesla through a home camera feed. Using a tablet, they captured the key fob’s signal and sent it to a cell phone that unlocked the car door. After seriously struggling to unplug the electric vehicle (this took longer than hacking the key), they drove away into the night.

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The Drive

Fortunately, with a little extra care, this could have been avoided. Tesla has a feature that requires a PIN code before you can drive, you just have to make sure this is on. Plus, you can turn off “passive entry” which is what the key fob does. Or, you could get a special “Faraday pouch” to store your key fob and protect it from getting hacked.

30. How to keep your internet self safe

While most hackers target companies, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood you’ll be hacked. For instance, you shouldn’t click on links or attachments in emails that come out of the blue. You should also use different passwords for different websites, so if one website has its user data stolen, they can’t use that for another website.


Another helpful anti-hacking tool is anti-virus software. It probably can’t ward off all viruses, but it can certainly stop some of them. It’s also a good idea to not accept social media invitations from people you don’t know. Plus, you should enable two-step verification where possible and take care not too share too much personal information online, which could be used to figure out your passwords or security answers.