No device, website or network is immune from hacking. Every day, hackers look for loopholes they can exploit in order to gain unauthorized access to a system. With the transition from the Internet to the Internet of Things, the opportunities and potential payoff for hackers are only bound to increase.
While we often think of hackers as ultra-geeks who are constantly finding new ways of penetrating sophisticated corporate networks, the tactics the average hacker uses are usually well known. The methods are simply modified to keep up with changes to the technology environment.
The following are the most common hacking methods every business should know about.
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A keylogger is a software or hardware system that records into a log file the strokes and sequences of your keyboard. Because it can capture so much information this way, the log file may even contain sensitive information like your passwords, credit card information and social security number.
Most keyloggers are software-based since these are relatively easy to install unnoticed. Hardware keyloggers may be harder to plugin without drawing attention but if this is done successfully, they can gather much more information. The threat from keyloggers is why some banking websites will suggest you use their virtual keyboard when logging in and transacting.
2. Denial of Service
A denial of service (DoS) is an attempt to bring down a website or server by flooding it with voluminous traffic. The server crashes because of its inability to process the requests in real time. In recent years, DoS has been superseded by Distributed DoS (DDoS).
In DDoS, the hacker creates a botnet (thousands or millions of zombie devices that respond to a central command) that relays gargantuan quantities of data packets to a target server in the hopes of bringing it down. Of all hacking attacks, DDoS make international headlines the most thanks to their scale and their high profile targets.
Phishing is a form of social engineering that involves the hacker imitating the web interface or email message format of a reputable organization. The goal is to persuade an unsuspecting user into providing sensitive personal information. Once the attacker obtains the data they need, they can use it to infiltrate a target system.
Banks and other financial services organizations are a popular target of phishing but other sectors are just as vulnerable. One of the most famous phishing attacks was the ‘Fappening’ leak where hackers used phishing to obtain the Gmail and iCloud credentials of numerous female celebrities.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, ‘computer virus’ was the term used to describe malicious programs that would self-install on a computing device without authorization. But the tech world has now adopted the broader term ‘malware’ to encompass the different categories of malicious applications including viruses, Trojans, worms, ransomware, spyware and adware.
Malware can lock files, corrupt data, extract confidential information, sniff network traffic or divert data packets. An antivirus is the best know solution to malware but you can also benefit from a file monitor.
5. Fake WiFi
It’s fairly easy for someone to create a deceptive WiFi hotspot. They’d give the hotspot a name that makes users think they are connecting to legitimate free public WiFi (like Starbucks WiFi or JFK Airport WiFi). Once a user connects to the hotspot, the hacker can intercept and read their data.
Other than keeping away from WiFi that you cannot authenticate, you can protect yourself from such attacks by using a virtual private network (VPN) service. VPN creates an encrypted connection and the hacker won’t see your information even if you connect to their fake WiFi.
6. Session Hijacking
Session hijacking is especially likely in cases where the website does not use secure HTTP (HTTPS). HTTPS is encrypted which makes it much harder for your cookies to be stolen.
There’s no guarantee that your devices, websites and networks will not succumb to a hacking attack. However, by knowing what attacks are most common, you will have a better chance of preventing them.