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The real exploits in Watch Dogs, a game about hacking

malwareComputer game fans everywhere are now enjoying Watch Dogs, a cutting-edge video game where you play as an elite hacker. With incredible computer cracking skills, the hero has the ability to use computers to confuse enemies and control the environment.

While his skill is unrealistic, some of the hacks that he exploits are far more down-to-earth than many may realise. Read on as we examine which hacking techniques weren’t dreamt up for the computer game, but were actually based on real-world computer nightmares.

Hacking cameras

If you thought your webcam was safe, think again. Hackers have been able to use malware to remotely access your webcam for years, with the most prevalent method infecting over 500,000 computers in over 100 countries.

Criminals could purchase software that allowed them to remotely turn on your webcam for just $40. And while most webcams have a light that shows when it’s recording, this malware managed to circumvent this protection and record anonymously. The result? Lots of naked pictures, and lots of blackmail.

How to avoid: make sure you have a good anti-virus scanner, and if you want to be extra careful, cover up your webcam with some masking tape

Scrambling communications

One of the most important forms on communication is the internet, and hackers take pieces of it down all the time. Anyone can fall victim to online hacking, from US President Barack Obama’s campaign page to Apple’s Developer website.

Aside from that, criminals are also getting better at stealing Facebook, Twitter and email passwords, disrupting users’ communications even more.

How to avoid: Avoid losing your social media and email details by changing passwords regularly, and ensuring you use a different password for each service

Changing Electronic billboards

While the game allows you to change electronic billboards on the street, hackers typically focus on electronic billboards on the internet: banner advertisements and adware (pop-ups that are stored locally on your computer).

For example, some malware – once installed on your computer – will block any website’s adverts and replace them with surrogate adverts that earn the malware creators money.

How to avoid: Have a reputable antivirus software.

Causing blackouts

Although no hackers have ever taken down a power grid (although some believe that the US power grid is under constant attack from state-sponsored hackers in China and Russia), computer blackouts are caused all the time by malware.

One particularly bad malware that caused computer “blackouts” was Blaster, which had a side-effect of causing the Windows operating system to restart every 60 seconds. Annoying!

How to avoid: Don’t get infected by the Blaster virus in 2003 and make sure your antivirus is up to date.

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