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Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from hackers online | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

  • Ex-hacker, 404, shared older adults who were less tech-savvy were often targets
  • They also revealed online users are ‘woefully unaware’ how much they overshare 
  • The ripple effect their financial crimes caused communities still ‘haunts’ them

An ex-cyber-criminal who earned half a million dollars in one year from his exploits has come forward to reveal how you can avoid getting hacked.

The ex-hacker, who goes by the ‘not found’ error code ‘404’, found himself wrapped up in the world of online crime at the young age of 18.

They revealed to MailOnline: ‘I was always fascinated by computers and technology. 

‘I studied computer science in university, which further fuelled my curiosity and led me down the dark path.’

The most they made in a year was $500,000, but when pressed on where the money was used, they said: ‘It was spent on living expenses, investments in technology. That’s all I’m willing to say’

They elaborated that they chose the alias 404 because it symbolised their desire to remain ‘unseen’.

With the help of Geonode’s cyber team, MailOnline was able to ask the cyber-criminal turned cybersecurity expert the best ways to protect yourself online.

The ex-cyber-criminal of eight years revealed the most common scam people are fooled by are phishing emails. File image:  A hooded hacker in front of their computer
The former hacker who once earned $500,000 in one year remained urged people to ‘be mindful’ about what they share online. File photo: Hooded hacker breaks into data servers

404 said their eight-year stint as a lawless online user provided them ‘unique insights into the mindset of cyber-criminals.’

They added: ‘Most people are woefully unaware of how exposed they are online. 

‘They often don’t realise how much personal information is accessible to those who know where to look.’

404 urged people to adjust their privacy settings and to ‘be mindful’ of what they share online.

The ex-cyber-criminal said: ‘Social media platforms are common oversharing locations.’

‘People share location, birthdates, family information and more.’

They strongly advised the public to not share ‘NI numbers, bank details, full address, and other highly sensitive personal information.’

The ex-hacker who decided to go down the cybersecurity path five years ago, also revealed who online criminals most frequently target. 

‘It varies, but often those less familiar with technology, such as older adults, may be more vulnerable.’

They also went on to reveal that phishing emails were the most frequent scam to hoodwink online users.

They shared: ‘Phishing emails are the most common. People can avoid them by being sceptical of unsolicited communications and verifying the authenticity of the sender. 

404 revealed those who are unfamiliar with tech are often targeted by online criminals, citing older adults as possibly being ‘more vulnerable’. File image: Unrecognizable hacker in front of computer
The ex-cyber-criminal also warned users to be wary of phishing emails, identity theft and ransomware. File image: High angle view of individual hacking multiple computers

They said key signs of the popular scam were misspelled words, poor grammar, generic greetings instead of personalised ones  and urgent or threatening language.

404 shared that verifying the sender’s email address is crucial in spotting the email scam.

They advised to check the email has come from a legitimate organisation, to keep a keen eye on any spelling errors in the email handle itself, and to ensure the messages are in line with previous legitimate communications.

But phishing emails are not the only crime running rife online, the ex-hacker also urged people to be wary of ransomware and identity theft.


  • Use strong, unique passwords
  • Enable two-factor authentication
  • Keep your software updated
  • Avoid suspicious links and downloads
  • Be cautious with sharing personal information online

To avoid hackings, the now cybersecurity expert said: ‘I would advise using strong and unique passwords and to be cautious with the information shared online.

‘Also keep your software up to date, such as your operating system, antivirus, browsers and other critical software.

‘Also, enable your two factor authentication and avoid suspicious links and downloads.’ 

404 also divulged that software such as Bitdefender, McAfee and Norton are ‘generally effective’ at keeping your device safe, but ‘regular updates and proper configuration are key.’

But what if it’s too late and your account has already been hacked? Don’t panic yet as all may not be lost.

You can possibly retrieve hacked accounts with ‘prompt action’ but it is platform and situation-dependent, according to 404.

They stated people should: ‘Immediately change their passwords, enable additional security measures and get in contact with the platform’s support team.’

The former cyber-criminal also gave us an insight on why he decided to put an end to his darker exploits online.

‘A combination of guilt, fear, and a growing understanding of the harm I was causing led me to stop. 

‘The crimes that involve hurting innocent individuals are the ones that trouble me the most. One in particular was a large-scale fraud that left many in financial ruin.

‘The crime involved infiltrating a major financial institution’s systems and manipulating accounts as part of a bigger OCG. 

‘The guilt still haunts me’: 404  claimed he was involved in ‘inflitrating a major financial intuition’s systems and manipulating account as part of a bigger OCG.’ They said the ripple effect of this crime negatively impacted communities. File image: Hacker with mobile phone smartphone stealing data
The former hacker who once earned $500,000 in one year ended his criminal career as it began to seep into his everyday life. He warned others: ‘It’s a path that leads to a life of fear and regret.’ File image: Handcuffs on a computer keyboard

‘Many people lost savings, and the ripple effect damaged small businesses and communities. 

‘The guilt of causing such widespread harm is something that still haunts me. 

They shared that their guilty conscience regarding their unlawful online activity began to seep into their everyday life.

‘Living a double life was stressful. I became more isolated and began to suffer from anxiety and depression’ 

They added: ‘My relationship with family and close friends suffered. They could sense something was wrong, but I could never tell them the truth.’ 

They also went on to urge others against unlawful activity online, declaring: ‘The consequences, both legal and personal, are not worth it. 

‘It’s a path that leads to a life of fear and regret.’


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