I’ve been hearing plenty about a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that provides conversational responses to people’s questions. And several people have described it to me as a tool that “could be used to write articles and blogs.” Think of it as 2023’s answer to AskJeeves.
Said tool, ChatGPT, is an intriguing example of the rapid progress being made in AI technology. The AI model has been trained as a real-time encyclopedia using information from online resources like articles, books, Wikipedia and more. In ChatGPT’s own words…
“ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI. It’s based on the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture, which is a type of artificial intelligence model that has been trained on large amounts of text data. ChatGPT is designed to generate human-like text in response to prompts, making it useful for a variety of natural language processing tasks, including conversation, summarization, question answering, and text generation.
“The model has been trained on a diverse range of text data, allowing it to answer questions, provide explanations, and generate text on a wide range of topics with high accuracy and fluency. ChatGPT is designed to be highly conversational and context-aware, so it can maintain a coherent and coherent dialogue even when the conversation spans multiple turns.
“Overall, ChatGPT represents a major advancement in the field of language modeling and has the potential to revolutionize the way that people interact with computers and access information.”
But how good is this AI tool? And can it write a better article than a professional writer?
Having written plenty in the past about how AI is being trained to understand human speech – including characteristics like humour and sarcasm that machines struggle to recognise – the phrase “human-like text” was one that stood out. So I thought I’d compare how ChatGPT went about writing an article that I’d had published by a client.
The article was entitled “What is Hacking” and was published in 2020 as a piece of SEO content that answered a series of questions related to hacking. So below are the two versions written by ChatGPT and myself. I’d be interested to know which you think is written by a human and which is written by the AI.
What is hacking?
A commonly used hacking definition is the act of compromising digital devices and networks through unauthorized access to an account or computer system. Hacking is not always a malicious act, but it is most commonly associated with illegal activity and data theft by cyber criminals. But what is hacking in a cyber security context?
Hacking in cyber security refers to the misuse of devices like computers, smartphones, tablets, and networks to cause damage to or corrupt systems, gather information on users, steal data and documents, or disrupt data-related activity.
A traditional view of hackers is a lone rogue programmer who is highly skilled in coding and modifying computer software and hardware systems. But this narrow view does not cover the true technical nature of hacking. Hackers are increasingly growing in sophistication, using stealthy attack methods designed to go completely unnoticed by cybersecurity software and IT teams. They are also highly skilled in creating attack vectors that trick users into opening malicious attachments or links and freely giving up their sensitive personal data.
As a result, modern-day hacking involves far more than just an angry kid in their bedroom. It is a multibillion-dollar industry with extremely sophisticated and successful techniques.
Hacking is the unauthorized access to or manipulation of a computer system or its components, usually with the intention of stealing, altering, or destroying data, or compromising the system’s security measures. It can also refer to the practice of exploiting weaknesses or vulnerabilities in a computer system or network to gain unauthorized access or control.
What is the history of hacking?
Hacking first appeared as a term in the 1970s but became more popular through the next decade. An article in a 1980 edition of Psychology Today ran the headline “The Hacker Papers” in an exploration of computer usage’s addictive nature. Two years later, two movies, Tron and WarGames, were released, in which the lead characters set about hacking into computer systems, which introduced the concept of hacking to a wide audience and as a potential national security risk.
Sure enough, later that year, a group of teenagers cracked the computer systems of major organizations like Los Alamos National Laboratory, Security Pacific Bank, and Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A Newsweek article covering the event became the first to use the word “hacker” in the negative light it now holds.
This event also led Congress to pass several bills around computer crimes, but that did not stop the number of high-profile attacks on corporate and government systems. Of course, the concept of hacking has spiraled with the release of the public internet, which has led to far more opportunities and more lucrative rewards for hacking activity. This saw techniques evolve and increase in sophistication and gave birth to a wide range of types of hacking and hackers.
The history of hacking can be traced back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when computers and computer networks were first becoming widely available. During this time, a subculture of computer enthusiasts and programmers emerged who began exploring the capabilities and limitations of these new technologies. Some of these individuals began using their skills to gain unauthorized access to computer systems and networks, either for fun or to prove their technical prowess.
As computer technology became more advanced and widespread, hacking evolved into a more organized and malicious activity. In the 1980s and 1990s, the rise of the internet and the availability of powerful computers made it easier for hackers to launch large-scale attacks and cause widespread harm. This led to increased concern about cyber security and the development of laws and regulations aimed at cracking down on hacking activity.
Today, hacking continues to be a major threat to individuals, organizations, and governments around the world, as sophisticated attackers seek to exploit vulnerabilities in computer systems for financial gain, political reasons, or other motivations.
What are the different types of hackers?
There are typically four key drivers that lead to bad actors hacking websites or systems: (1) financial gain through the theft of credit card details or by defrauding financial services, (2) corporate espionage, (3) to gain notoriety or respect for their hacking talents, and (4) state-sponsored hacking that aims to steal business information and national intelligence. On top of that, there are politically motivated hackers—or hacktivists—who aim to raise public attention by leaking sensitive information, such as Anonymous, LulzSec, and WikiLeaks.
A few of the most common types of hackers that carry out these activities involve:
Black Hat Hackers: Black hat hackers are the “bad guys” of the hacking scene. They go out of their way to discover vulnerabilities in computer systems and software to exploit them for financial gain or for more malicious purposes, such as to gain reputation, carry out corporate espionage, or as part of a nation-state hacking campaign.
These individuals’ actions can inflict serious damage on both computer users and the organizations they work for. They can steal sensitive personal information, compromise computer and financial systems, and alter or take down the functionality of websites and critical networks.
White Hat Hackers: White hat hackers can be seen as the “good guys” who attempt to prevent the success of black hat hackers through proactive hacking. They use their technical skills to break into systems to assess and test the level of network security, also known as ethical hacking. This helps expose vulnerabilities in systems before black hat hackers can detect and exploit them.
The techniques white hat hackers use are similar to or even identical to those of black hat hackers, but these individuals are hired by organizations to test and discover potential holes in their security defenses.
Grey Hat Hackers: Grey hat hackers sit somewhere between the good and the bad guys. Unlike black hat hackers, they attempt to violate standards and principles but without intending to do harm or gain financially. Their actions are typically carried out for the common good. For example, they may exploit a vulnerability to raise awareness that it exists, but unlike white hat hackers, they do so publicly. This alerts malicious actors to the existence of the vulnerability.
There are several types of hacking and hackers, including:
Black Hat Hackers: They are malicious individuals who engage in illegal and unethical hacking activities, such as stealing sensitive data, disrupting computer systems, and spreading viruses or malware.
White Hat Hackers: Also known as ethical hackers, they use their hacking skills to find and report security vulnerabilities in computer systems, with the goal of improving the overall security of the system.
Gray Hat Hackers: They fall between black hat and white hat hackers, sometimes using their skills for illegal purposes, but also using their abilities to find and report security vulnerabilities.
Script Kiddies: They are inexperienced hackers who use pre-written scripts or tools to carry out simple hacking attacks, often with the aim of disrupting computer systems or defacing websites.
State-Sponsored Hackers: They are individuals or groups sponsored by a government to carry out hacking activities for political or strategic reasons.
Insider Threats: They are individuals who have legitimate access to a computer system or network but use their access for malicious purposes.
Cybercrime: This type of hacking is motivated by financial gain, and can include activities such as credit card fraud, identity theft, and the sale of stolen data.
Which devices are most vulnerable to hacking?
Smart Devices: Smart devices, such as smartphones, are lucrative targets for hackers. Android devices, in particular, have a more open-source and inconsistent software development process than Apple devices, which puts them at risk of data theft or corruption. However, hackers are increasingly targeting the millions of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Webcams: Webcams built into computers are a common hacking target, mainly because hacking them is a simple process. Hackers typically gain access to a computer using a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) in rootkit malware, which allows them to not only spy on users but also read their messages, see their browsing activity, take screenshots, and hijack their webcam.
Routers: Hacking routers enables an attacker to gain access to data sent and received across them and networks that are accessed on them. Hackers can also hijack a router to carry out wider malicious acts such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, Domain Name System (DNS) spoofing, or cryptomining.
Email: Email is one of the most common targets of cyberattacks. It is used to spread malware and ransomware and as a tactic for phishing attacks, which enable attackers to target victims with malicious attachments or links.
Jailbroken Phones: Jailbreaking a phone means removing restrictions imposed on its operating system to enable the user to install applications or other software not available through its official app store. Aside from being a violation of the end-user’s license agreement with the phone developer, jailbreaking exposes many vulnerabilities. Hackers can target jailbroken phones, which allows them to steal any data on the device but also extend their attack to connected networks and systems.
Nearly all digital devices can be vulnerable to hacking if they are connected to the internet and have security vulnerabilities. Some devices that are commonly targeted by hackers include:
Personal computers: Desktops and laptops can be vulnerable to malware, phishing attacks, and other forms of hacking.
Smartphones and Tablets: Mobile devices are often targeted by hackers due to the sensitive information they store and the increasing use of mobile banking and other financial applications.
IoT Devices: The Internet of Things (IoT) includes a wide range of connected devices such as smart home devices, security cameras, and wearable devices. Many of these devices have limited processing power and security features, making them easy targets for hackers.
Routers and Network Devices: Routers and other networking equipment can be vulnerable to hacking, which can give attackers access to an entire network and the devices connected to it.
Cloud Services: Cloud storage services can also be vulnerable to hacking, as they store sensitive data and require users to trust a third-party with access to their information.
It’s important to note that the risk of hacking can be reduced by following best practices for device security, such as using strong passwords, keeping software up-to-date, and being cautious about opening emails or links from unknown sources.
How can businesses avoid being hacked?
Download from First-party Sources: Only download applications or software from trusted organizations and first-party sources. Downloading content from unknown sources means users do not fully know what they are accessing, and the software can be infected with malware, viruses, or Trojans.
Install Antivirus Software: Having antivirus software installed on devices is crucial to spotting potential malicious files, activity, and bad actors. A trusted antivirus tool protects users and organizations from the latest malware, spyware, and viruses and uses advanced detection engines to block and prevent new and evolving threats.
Use a VPN: Using a virtual private network (VPN) allows users to browse the internet securely. It hides their location and prevents hackers from intercepting their data or browsing activity.
Do Not Login as an Admin by Default: “Admin” is one of the most commonly used usernames by IT departments, and hackers use this information to target organizations. Signing in with this name makes you a hacking target, so do not log in with it by default.
Use a Password Manager: Creating strong, unique passwords is a security best practice, but remembering them is difficult. Password managers are useful tools for helping people use strong, hard-to-crack passwords without having to worry about remembering them.
Use Two-factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication (2FA) removes people’s reliance on passwords and provides more certainty that the person accessing an account is who they say they are. When a user logs in to their account, they are then prompted to provide another piece of identity evidence, such as their fingerprint or a code sent to their device.
Brush Up on Anti-phishing Techniques: Users must understand the techniques that hackers deploy to target them. This is especially the case with antiphishing and ransomware, which help users know the telltale signs of a phishing email or a ransomware attack or ransomware settlements.
Businesses can protect themselves against hacking by implementing the following measures:
Implement strong security policies: Develop and enforce strong security policies, including password policies, to help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Educate employees: Provide regular training and education to employees on the importance of security and how to identify and avoid phishing scams, malware, and other threats.
Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software to protect all company devices from malware and other forms of hacking.
Regularly update software: Keep all software and systems up-to-date with the latest security patches to address known vulnerabilities.
Use encryption: Encrypt sensitive information both in transit and at rest to protect it from being intercepted or stolen.
Limit access to sensitive information: Limit access to sensitive information to only those who need it for their work.
Regularly back up data: Regularly back up important data to a secure location, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage service.
Monitor network activity: Regularly monitor network activity for unusual or suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access attempts, to detect and respond to potential threats.
Use a Firewall: Install a firewall to protect against unauthorized access to your network and limit the spread of malware.
Consider hiring a security consultant: Consider hiring a security consultant to perform a thorough security assessment and provide recommendations for improving your security posture.
By implementing these measures, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of being hacked and protect sensitive information and resources.
How can users protect themselves against hacking?
There are several key steps and best practices that users can follow to ensure they limit their chances of getting hacked.
Software Updates: Hackers are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities or holes in security that have not been seen or patched. Therefore, updating software and operating systems are both crucial to preventing users and organizations from getting hacked. They must enable automatic updates and ensure the latest software version is always installed on all of their devices and programs.
Use Unique Passwords for Different Accounts: Weak passwords or account credentials and poor password practices are the most common cause of data breaches and cyberattacks. It is vital to not only use strong passwords that are difficult for hackers to crack but also to never use the same password for different accounts. Using unique passwords is crucial to limiting hackers’ effectiveness.
HTTPS Encryption: Spoofed websites are another common vehicle for data theft, when hackers create a scam website that looks legitimate but will actually steal the credentials that users enter. It is important to look for the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) prefix at the start of a web address.
Avoid Clicking on Ads or Strange Links: Advertisements like pop-up ads are also widely used by hackers. When clicked, they lead the user to inadvertently download malware or spyware onto their device. Links should be treated carefully, and strange links within email messages or on social media, in particular, should never be clicked. These can be used by hackers to install malware on a device or lead users to spoofed websites.
Change the Default Username and Password on Your Router and Smart Devices: Routers and smart devices come with default usernames and passwords. However, as providers ship millions of devices, there is a risk that the credentials are not unique, which heightens the chances of hackers breaking into them. It is best practice to set a unique username and password combination for these types of devices.
There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of being hacked:
Use strong passwords and change them regularly: A strong password is at least 12 characters long and includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Keep your software up-to-date: Software updates often include security patches to fix known vulnerabilities.
Be cautious with emails and links: Don’t click on suspicious emails or links, especially if they come from an unknown source.
Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: Install and regularly update security software to protect against viruses, malware, and other forms of hacking.
Enable two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a password and a second form of authentication, such as a code sent to your phone.
Back up your data: Regularly back up your data to an external hard drive or cloud storage service, so you can recover your data if your device is compromised.
Be careful when using public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks can be vulnerable to hacking, so be cautious when using them to access sensitive information.
Educate yourself: Stay informed about the latest security threats and trends, and be proactive in protecting your devices and personal information.
What is ethical hacking? And how legal is ethical hacking?
Ethical hacking refers to the actions carried out by white hat security hackers. It involves gaining access to computer systems and networks to test for potential vulnerabilities, and then fixing any identified weaknesses. Using these technical skills for ethical hacking purposes is legal, provided the individual has written permission from the system or network owner, protects the organization’s privacy, and reports all weaknesses they find to the organization and its vendors.
Ethical hacking is a process of legally and ethically testing an organization’s computer systems and networks for security vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The aim of ethical hacking is to identify and report these vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed before they are exploited by malicious attackers. Ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, use the same techniques and tools as malicious hackers, but with the permission and cooperation of the organization. The goal of ethical hacking is to improve the overall security of the system and protect against unauthorized access, theft of data, and other types of cybercrime.
What is the biggest hack in history?
The biggest hack in history is thought to be the data breach against Yahoo! The 2013 attack compromised around 3 billion people, and the company revealed that every Yahoo! customer was affected by it.
It’s difficult to determine the biggest hack in history as the severity of a hack is often measured by the amount of sensitive information that is stolen, and this information is not always disclosed. However, some of the most well-known and impactful hacks include:
- SolarWinds Hack (2020): A supply chain attack in which hackers gained access to the systems of multiple government agencies and corporations by compromising software updates from the SolarWinds company.
- Equifax Hack (2017): A data breach that exposed the sensitive information of approximately 143 million people, including social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
- Yahoo Hack (2013-2014): A massive data breach that exposed the personal information of all three billion of Yahoo’s user accounts.
- WannaCry ransomware attack (2017): A global cyberattack that affected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries, encrypting the data on infected machines and demanding a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.
These are just a few examples of the largest and most impactful hacks in history, but new and more sophisticated attacks are being carried out every day, so this list is constantly evolving.
Which country has the most hackers?
China is believed to be the country with the highest number of dangerous hackers. Most of the major cyberattacks that occurred around the world can be traced back to China.
It is difficult to determine the country with the most hackers as hacking is a covert activity and the number of individuals involved is not easily quantifiable. Also, many hackers operate from different countries or use proxy servers to conceal their location, making it challenging to determine their origin.
However, some countries are known to have high levels of hacking activity due to a combination of factors such as a large number of computer users, a high level of technical expertise, and a lack of effective law enforcement. Some of the countries that are commonly associated with high levels of hacking activity include China, Russia, and North Korea.
It’s worth noting that the majority of hackers are not necessarily located in these countries and that hackers can come from any country, regardless of its level of economic development or technological sophistication. Additionally, it’s important to note that not all hacking is illegal or unethical, and many individuals engage in hacking as a means of improving security, conducting research, or learning new skills.
Before reading our verdict below, do you think ChatGPT wrote Version 1 or Version 2 of these answers? Let us know by commenting below!
Reading through the ChatGPT responses – which were Version 2, if you hadn’t guessed – it’s undeniable that the AI tool has done a solid job of answering the questions we posed. However, it was interesting to see it avoid the loaded question of “which country has the most hackers” – to which the answer is most certainly China.
Of course, an SEO article has certain stipulations, such as keywords and listing out key facts, which makes it pretty easy for the AI tool. So I’d be interested to see how ChatGPT tackled a more challenging article, while the claim of being “conversational” doesn’t quite ring true as it’s very much a one-way conversation. But overall, I am impressed with the responses it provided.
However, ChatGPT isn’t the only AI model out there that’s capable of writing in a “conversational” manner, so next week we’re going to pit its skills against one of its competitors!
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