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In recent months, several organizations — large and small — have been hit by hacking attacks by Internet collectives, and now many of those victims are choosing to fight back.

Hacking has become a major concern for a number of companies that protect troves of sensitive data, and there is a new method that many are employing in an attempt to discourage this type of action, according to a report from Reuters. Many are now using “active defense” technology, which can either waste hackers’ time in their efforts to access data they might be after, or have more dire consequences for the unwanted intruder.

One type of active defense is for a company to allow hackers it detects in its system to appear to grant access to files, only to shut off that access at the last moment and sidetrack the hackers, the report said. This serves to waste the hackers’ time and resources, and often involves granting them access to bogus or useless information. Some companies even let them access “beacon” files that actually work to counter-hack the criminal’s own systems and reveal information about them.

The necessity for these kinds of countermeasures has increased significantly in the last few years as hackers have become bolder, and even joined into collectives of other like-minded crooks, the report said. “Hacktivism” is now quite popular within this community, and experts have discovered that their efforts are quite widespread. Rodney Joffe, a senior technologist at Internet infrastructure company Neustar Inc., recently examined some systems from 168 of the 500 largest companies by revenue in the U.S. and found that as many as 162 of them owned machines that had been compromised by hackers.

Some experts also say that the new focus on increasing security will be good for companies in the long run, the report said. In the past, many companies may have scrimped on these issues, but because hacktivist collectives were gaining access to sensitive systems with simple techniques, security has increased significantly.

These hacking attacks, however, can have serious ramifications for consumers, because they exposed large amounts of sensitive personal and financial data. Further, any problems that arise as a result of this exposed information can be difficult to remediate.

Image: Davide Restivo, via Flickr

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