Hacking and online safety sparks concern with cybersecurity

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By Abby Carella and Elena Schmidt, Staff Reporters

With the rising use of technology and social media, the risk of being hacked is greater than ever.

Recently, the district has started launching cybersecurity attack tests. In one instance, an email was sent to a group of staff members at the high school asking them to change their passwords immediately. Luckily, for the faculty members who clicked the link, it was only a test. But, had it been real, they could have been hacked. Health and gym teacher Marcia Mariani was one of the faculty members who fell victim to this test. 

“I just got caught on the last one. They send fake ones out all of the time,” Mariani said.

This example of hacking is known as phishing. CCRES (Chester County Regional Education Services) paraprofessional Alex Magnanini explained exactly what that means.

“You’re sent these unsolicited emails with links, and if you click on them, you might be taken to a website that looks real and legitimate, but it’s not. Anything you type  in on that website might be recorded, like a password or username, and then stolen,” Magnanini said. 

The motivations vary between hackers: some might do it as a personal challenge to see how far they get, while others might do it to steal vital information. Teenagers and young adults may think hacking is a good way to get their crush’s attention.

 “Maybe sometimes with students, you know, they might be targeted because someone likes them and thinks that hacking into the account might impress them, but that is never the case,” Magnanini said.

Even if hacking can seem harmless, it remains a crime, falling under identity theft. Email addresses are easy targets due to insecure passwords and can serve as gateways to stealing credit card information and Social Security cards. The risk of being hacked is also prevalent in social media users.

Sophomore Cookie Jones has had firsthand experience with Instagram direct  message hacking. A few months ago, Jones received a direct message from a person she knew. Thinking nothing of it, she clicked the link and was taken to a page that looked identical to the Instagram log in page. Jones entered her username and password, assuming that she had been logged out. It turned out that the direct message was actually a hacked message. The hackers now had all of her login information and used it to send a message to many of her followers.

The advice Jones has for others is, “Don’t click on the link.” 

People frequently ask how they can keep themselves safe from hackers. It is important not to underestimate the necessity of a unique password, which will make it difficult for hackers to easily access information. 

“Protect yourself. Think defensively in pretty much everything you do,” Mariani said.