How Hackers Steal Your Data—Part 1

It’s no secret that your data is a hot commodity. Each day sophisticated cybercriminals attempt to make money by stealing your private information. They may use the info to pose as you, blackmail you, or simply sell your information to someone who will. If you want to stay in business, you’ll need to be able to thwart these attempts. But to do so, you must understand the increasingly advanced methods hackers use. Here are the top two techniques hackers utilize to gain access to sensitive data. (Be on the lookout for Part 2).

Cracking Passwords

The fact that hackers might simply guess your passwords probably seems painfully obvious.  The hard truth is that many companies still lack proper password management. If your password is a series of common words, a dictionary attack can use algorithms to cycle through a word database to quickly discover your chosen phrase.

Simply adding some numbers to a password isn’t enough either. Hackers can up the ante with a brute force attack. This allows them, with some additional computing power, to cycle through alpha-numeric combinations until they strike gold.

And if determined and well equipped, a hacker can also utilize a rainbow table attack. When passwords are entered, they are “hashed” to not send the actual plaintext password over the communication line. In this type of attack, pre-computed tables can recover these hashes and reverse them to reduce guessing time and discover complex passwords.

To prevent this, you’ll need to create unique passwords. Use one more than ten characters long and have a mix of numbers, lower- and uppercase letters, and symbols for each account. One popular trick for this is to think of a phrase and codify it. For example, “Cousin Greg lives in Seattle” becomes “C0u$iNGr3gLiV3SinS3ATtLE.”

Additionally, use multi-factor authentication whenever possible so that a password isn’t the only thing standing between an attacker and access to your accounts.

Phishing Schemes

One of the most common methods of data hacking is phishing scams. They are so effective they’ve produced many high-profile data breaches including the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who unknowingly gave up his Gmail password, and also the Snapchat incident, where an employee gave up payroll information that led to widespread identity theft.

In a phishing scheme, disguised e-mails lure the recipient into a trap. Posing as a trusted source, such as someone you do business with, your bank, or your email provider, hackers trick you into providing them information directly. Clicking a link leads you to a fake site or downloads an attachment that allows access to your system. Phishing is an evergreen technique that is continuously being re-invented in order to become harder to spot.

The best way to not get hooked in by a phishing scam is to study the way they are being used and stay vigilant. Make sure to check the spelling of URLs in email links and watch out for URL redirects. Keep your browsers up-to-date to ensure you have the most recent security patches. Also install anti-phishing toolbars on your browser that can run checks on sites you visit and compare them to a database of known phishing sites. And, of course, never give out personal information over email.

These are two of the most popular ways attackers attempt to gain access to your system. Stay tuned for Part 2 when we dive into three more sophisticated methods cyber attackers use. Concerned you’re not as safe as you thought? Contact Link High Technologies immediately. Our cybersecurity professionals have the expertise to make sure you’re one step ahead of the latest tricks, scams, and hacks that could threaten your business.