5 Sneaky Ways Hackers Try to Steal Information

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Every year, businesses lose billions of dollars to cyberattacks. Educating employees on the most common techniques used by hackers is an important aspect of cybersecurity.

Endpoint security protection measures can also prevent or mitigate many of the worst types of cyberattacks. 

The following list includes some of the most well-known ways that hackers try to extract sensitive data from personal devices. 

Social Engineering

Cybercriminals know that people are the weakest links in a company’s cybersecurity policies. They exploit the natural tendency to trust or provide assistance to gain access to restricted information.

For example, rather than attempting to enter a business’ encrypted network, hackers will break into an employee’s social media or email account. Once inside, the hacker can masquerade as the individual and send messages that contain viruses or malware. 

Hackers also manipulate employees by assuming the identity of a trusted source, which could be a vendor, financial institution, or even a government agency. They will send messages that imply the individual or the business is in trouble or must verify some information. This can be a very successful way to extract password information and personally identifiable data from individuals.

Fighting against social engineering attacks can be difficult, as hackers are becoming increasingly adept at replicating messaging from official channels. Employees on the receiving end of a social engineering attack should verify messages by contacting the company or agency directly. 

Browser Malware

Hackers use the internet to advance cyber attacks on unsuspecting users. One of the most common types of attacks installs malware that can control a victim’s browser. The hacker can then force the browser to redirect the user to a different webpage.

For example, a user trying to complete a search on Google may be redirected to a different search engine. However, the site has been manipulated by cybercriminals to install spyware or malware onto the user’s device. 

Further, if the user visits any sensitive websites during their session, the hacker may gain access to those passwords and information.

The malware that a browser attack installs onto a computer can significantly slow down the device. One of the most common signs of a browser attack includes lagging, an increase in pop-ups, and unfamiliar tools appearing on the browser or desktop menus. 

Anti-virus software can scan and remove malware from an infected device. Browser developers also frequently update their security features to prevent the most common types of malware. 

Website Spoofing

This form of cyberattack combines tactics from social engineering and browser malware. In this scenario, the hacker takes advantage of the credibility of a legitimate organization or business by copying their web address and web domain. 

For example, a hacker may create a replica of the popular site eBay. The web address and page may look very similar to the official site. Unsuspecting users may not realize the website is spoofed and enter sensitive information.

While hackers can mimic many of the visual aspects of a website, there are some features that are impossible to replicate. Since all domains must be unique, spoofed websites often contain a typo or letter replacement. Additionally, spoofed sites generally do not have an SSL certificate, which secures the site against unauthorized access.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Unlike the previously mentioned techniques, man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks do not rely on the user to install malware or interact with a compromised entity. Instead, a hacker gains access to the information being transmitted between two legitimate parties. 

For example, when a user purchases an item from a legitimate eCommerce site, they send their encrypted payment information to a payment processor to complete the transaction.

The hacker is able to eavesdrop on the interaction and gather personal information. In some cases, the hacker actually intercepts the information and funnels the user’s data onto their network. 

Public wifi connections are some of the most common ways hackers set up MITM attacks. They may spoof legitimate free wifi networks, or simply wait for someone to log into their network. Any information that is sent during the session will be visible to the hacker. More sophisticated MITM attacks interfere with the SSL certificate.

Keylogging

Hackers deploy malware or spyware using one of the above methods. The program then monitors and records the user’s keystrokes. Hackers may also take screenshots to match login information with specific websites.

It can be particularly difficult to defend a business’ network from keylogging attacks as recording keystrokes is a common function in legitimate software. For example, many employee monitoring tools have keylogging capabilities. 

To reduce the risk of illegal keylogging, employees should opt for two-factor authentication whenever possible. This means that in order to log into an account, the website will request authorization through a second device, usually a smartphone. 

When two-factor authentication is enabled, hackers will not be able to access an account even if they have obtained the password.