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9 Common Hacking Techniques Everybody Should Know

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The good thing about hackers is they are non-discriminatory. Yes, everyone is included in their list of potential targets. If there is data to be had, from personal email addresses to bank account numbers, it could very well be marked as something of value to a cyber-criminal.

Hackers do not necessarily want the information for themselves. In many cases, stolen data is sold to other, more sophisticated operations on what is known as “the dark web.” Otherwise, the data may be held onto for future use in a larger hacking scheme. Some hackers just love the thrill and dump the gained info into a public space to cause a chaotic scene.

New Types of Hackers Are Appearing

Unfortunately, hacking is now easier than ever because hackers don’t actually work hard to find a vulnerability in your system to sneak in. Plenty of tutorials and step-by-step instructions on hacking and malware insertion can be found in the dark corners of the web.

Although the high-skilled hackers that can break any code still exist, a lot of hackers nowadays rely on you to provide the information they need by using a variety of tricks and lies. That’s less time-consuming than laboring to find a weakness in the operating system.

So, let’s see what the most common hacking technique are and how to protect yourself against them.

#1 Phishing

Even though it’s been around for far longer than you might think, phishing is still one of the most common hacking techniques employed by most hackers.

Phishing aims to deceive the user into providing sensitive information such as passwords, user names, credit card numbers, and so on. It can also be used to install malicious software on the victim’s computer.

It usually goes like this. You get a message on your phone, email, or social media from a “legitimate”-looking organization or a person. There is some urgent matter that you have to resolve immediately, or there will be negative consequences, for example, getting your bank account terminated.

A link is provided to the site where you should reenter your password and user name or provide billing information.

If you fall for this trick and click the link, you’ll be redirected to a page that is an exact copy of the legitimate one with a single exception - the URL in the taskbar. Entering your password and user name means that the hacker has his/her hands on your information.

While it might seem too easy for you, according to Adam Kujawa, Director of Malwarebytes Labs, phishing is one of the simplest, yet most dangerous and effective cyber-attack.

That’s because it relies on social engineering. In other words, it exploits human psyche and strong emotions such as fear, urgency, and compassion.

Phishing attacks can be:

  • Email phishing. They mimic the usual correspondence you receive from a certain site or an organization. 
  • Spear phishing attack. In this case, the hacker pretends to be someone from your business or social circles. As such, you’re less suspicious and more likely to click on the provided link. 
  • Whaling phishing attacks. They target business organizations and steal the executives’ credentials. Then the hacker uses the credentials to gain access to sensitive information.
  • Phone phishing. You get a call from your bank or other organization, and they ask from verifying information on some false pretense. 

To protect yourself from phishing, you have to stay vigilant and never trust any emails/phone calls that ask for passwords. In case you’re not sure about the authenticity of an email, always contact the legitimate organization and ask for clarification.

#2 Fake Wi-Fi

A lot of people use public Wi-Fi every day without even knowing the dangers it poses. For once, hackers could easily hack any public Wi-Fi and monitor what you’re doing over the Internet.

They can also scoop all the information you provide while using this free Internet. Before you know it, your Facebook account is spreading infected videos to all your friends and groups.

In addition to his, hackers might use public coffee houses, airports, bookstores, and so on to create false wireless access points.

Despite how complicated it might sound to you, it doesn’t require a lot of hacking skills because there are plenty of tutorials on how to do it. Once the hackers have created this fake Wi-Fi, they jam the signal from the local Wi-Fi.

So, you walk into that building, and your device connects to the fake Wi-Fi and you’re none the wiser. That’s how the hacker can snoop around and steal passwords, usernames, bank information, and so on. They can also gain access to your device or use it for malicious purposes.

Remember that there is no such thing as free lunch and don’t ever send sensitive information over public Wi-Fi.

#3 Bait-and-switch

Bait-and-switch is an old selling trick that hackers have modified for their nefarious purposes. Here is what they do. Hackers buy advertising space on a website, and they offer something that looks like a great bargain. That’s the bait.

If you happen to click on the ad to download, they switch the legitimate content with their malicious link. You might get redirected to a malware-infected page or install malware-infected software on your computer, which gives the hackers additional access to your information.

To protect yourself, make sure that your browser doesn’t allow pop-ups and that you have an antivirus which would prevent you from being redirected to infected sites.

#4 Keylogger

Can you imagine that a hacker might know everything you type on your keyboard? They might if they use the keylogger hacking technique. It involves the installing of malicious software that records your keystrokes and key sequences.

The purpose of this hacking is to gain access to passwords, PIN codes, email addresses, bank information, and all that could be of value to the hacker.

Hackers usually get a keylogger on your computer either by physically bugging it or by using Trojan horses to install one on your device. That could happen when:

  • You click on links/attachments in phishing emails.
  • You open suspicious files send by friends or unfamiliar people.
  • You visit a website infected by the hacker.

If you are worried about keylogging, the simplest solution would be to use virtual keyboards so that hackers can’t intercept your information.

#5 Cookie Theft

Cookies are files that get stored on your computer. Their function is to allow the website you’re browsing to recognize you and not ask for your logging information when you change the page. It’s also a way for sites to track their users’ activities and visits.

Let’s have an example. You visit a website for the first time and create a profile. It sends a cookie to your computer, which stores it in a specific location. However, if the website sends the cookie over unsecured/unencrypted connection, the cookie might get intercepted by a third party. That’s called cookie theft.

Then the hacker who had stolen your cookie can pretend to be you on that website. While cookies might not allow hackers to gain access to your username and password because they are encrypted, a hacker might wreak havoc on your account or hijack it for nefarious purposes.

To avoid cookie theft, you can employ the HTTPS protocol, which will encrypt the connection and make it impossible for the cookie to be intercepted. An example of such application is HTTPS Everywhere.

#6 Credential Stuffing

One of the reasons why people get hacked often is that they use the same passwords for all their accounts. Yes, it’s easier to remember a single password than twenty or thirty, but the chances of you getting hacked are very high.

That’s because hackers target corporations that store a massive amount of usernames and passwords. If they managed to breach the security and steal the information, they try these usernames and passwords on other sites in the hopes that they would work. That’s called credential stuffing or credential reuse.

Your best protection against it would be to create a unique password for each site and keep an eye on social media for security breaches so that you can change your passwords immediately.

#7 SQL Injection

Not all websites are as secure as you think because not all of them take the necessary security measures. As a result, some sites are more vulnerable to hacker attacks than others.

It happens most often to those that use the SQL programming language, which allows hackers to inserts malicious code into the website’s content. This code can extract information from the website or help the hacker launch other attacks.

This type of hacker attack targets websites, but it can be harmful to the website’s users because it can be used to modify or use their data.

Unfortunately, you can’t do much to protect yourself in these cases because it’s up to websites’ administrator to make sure that their security is up-to-date. But you can stay vigilant and avoid websites your antivirus warns you are not secure.

#8 IoT Hacking

Internet of Things or IoT are all those everyday devices that are connected to the Internet, such as your TV, thermostat, air conditioner, voice-activated devices, and so on.

While these objects can be very helpful in the hustle and bustle of the day, they are extremely vulnerable to hackers’ attacks. That’s because they lack the space and the computing power for effective security measures.

As a result, hackers might tap into your TV and control it from across the street. They can wreak havoc on your home alarm system or figure out when you’re home alone. In addition to this, hackers can exploit your devices to launch attacks to servers in an attempt to bring them down.

One of the ways to protect your IoT devices is to get a secure Wi-Fi router with a strong, unique password and look through the settings of the IoT device and disable the ones that bother you.

#9 DDoD Attacks

Last but not least, one of the most common hacking technique is Distributed Denial of Service. It involves installing malware on multiple devices, harnessing their internet bandwidth, and flooding a server with enough request to shut it down.

A website’s server can handle a limited amount of requests, and when it gets overwhelmed, it shuts down. You probably have noticed how some servers become unavailable when a lot of users are trying to connect to them at the same time, for example, when you’re buying tickets for an event.

The same thing happens here, but it’s an organized attack, whose goal is to disrupt the website’s normal traffic.

Besides the fact that your computer is infected with malware that uses some of your Internet bandwidth, you probably won’t experience other negative side effects. Nevertheless, you should remove the malware as soon as you notice that your device is acting strangely.

There Is Security in Awareness

Hackers have determined that getting to the right person personally could grant them the same access they used to get by attempting a direct attack on a corporate network. Gone are the days when simply leaving suspicious work emails unopened was enough to protect yourself.

Awareness is the key to personal data security, now more than ever. Caution should be used when posting personal information on social media sites. Protect yourself by privatizing your accounts, getting a universally compatible Virtual Private Network, and be wary of unknown requests to join your social circle.

Like most crime, digital criminals are always looking for new ways to gain the upper hand. It is impossible to avoid every attack, but awareness can go a long way toward a more secure digital world.

(Last Updated On: July 10, 2019)
About the author

    Whale Sumo

    Hwang is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves helping people understand complex concepts. He has a passion for crypto and online privacy and enjoys teaching others about the benefits of both. Hwang is an advocate for individual freedom and believes that knowledge is power. When he's not busy sharing his knowledge with the world, Hwang can be found running full marathons or playing video games.