There have been numerous stories in the news around hacking and data breaches in recent times. Indeed, so far this year alone there have been over 466 million breached records, with 220 million of those coming from Twitter*. Today we take a closer look at hacking and how to prevent it, with some cyber security tips from our team of experts.
What is hacking?
Simply put, it is the act of identifying and then exploiting weaknesses in computer systems or networks. Hackers typically attempt to gain unauthorised access to data. Whilst this is not always done maliciously, the term ‘hacker’ is generally regarded in a negative sense. Hackers are widely perceived as cyber-criminals who seek to compromise digital devices to cause havoc and reap financial gain.
What are some examples of hacking techniques?
This is a type of cyber-attack which sees attackers impersonating a trustworthy entity or organisation. The objective is to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information including usernames, passwords and credit card details. Phishing attacks are typically conducted via email, text or social media messages and sometimes even phone calls. Attackers will often pose as a reputable organisation such as a bank or a well-known company. Once communication has begun, they deploy social engineering techniques to manipulate their victims. These communications are designed to appear genuine, sometimes incorporating logos and branding associated with the entity being impersonated. Urgent or enticing language can be used to trick the recipient into taking immediate action. In recent times, phishing attempts related to missed deliveries have become very popular with cyber-criminals.
Bait and Switch cyber-attacks
As with phishing, these represent another technique deployed by attackers to trick individuals or organisations. Essentially, the victim is lured by an enticing offer such as a discounted product or a free service or exclusive download (the ‘Bait’). Then, after an initial interaction, the ‘Switch’ takes place. In other words, instead of delivering the promised offer, service or download, the attacker switches the interaction with something malicious. This could mean a redirect to a phishing website or initiating a malware download.
Preventative measures to take
To protect yourself from phishing attacks, follow these best practices:
Always verify the source: Double-check the sender’s email addresses, domains or phone number and be wary of minor discrepancies or slight alterations in the message / communication.
Be cautious with personal information: Avoid sharing any sensitive information, legitimate organisations do not typically request sensitive data through insecure channels.
Use strong, unique passwords or pass phrases: Also consider using a password manager.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): This adds an extra layer of security by requiring an additional verification step, such as a unique code sent to an app.
Keep your operating system, web browsers and security software up to date.
Be aware: Always exercise caution when clicking on links or downloading attachments. It is a good idea to hover your cursor over a link, too, as this will reveal the destination.
Take the same measures to protect yourself from bait and switch attacks, but also consider the following:
Always exercise caution: Be wary of enticing offers, especially if they appear too good to be true.
Use reliable security solutions: Use antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and block malicious content or downloads.
Practice safe browsing: Be cautious when clicking on ads or unfamiliar links. Hover over links to check their destinations before clicking.
Conclusion: Hacking and how to prevent it
Here are some additional preventative measures you can take to protect yourself or your organisation against hackers:
Regularly back up your data: Implement a robust backup strategy for important data. Read our article ‘IT Backups: 6 Reasons backups are important’.
Individuals, secure your home network: Change the default login credentials of your home router. Enable encryption such as WPA2 or WPA3 to protect your Wi-Fi network. Disable remote administration and regularly check for firmware updates provided by the manufacturer.
Be cautious on public Wi-Fi networks: Avoid accessing sensitive information or conducting financial transactions when connected to public Wi-Fi networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for encrypted connections.
Organisations, implement access controls: Restrict user access to sensitive data or critical systems on a need-to-know basis. Regularly review and update user permissions and privileges, then disable or remove any unnecessary accounts.
Individuals, educate yourself; organisations, educate your employees.
Secure physical access: Control physical access to your devices, servers, and network infrastructure.
Regularly monitor and log activities: Implement logging and monitoring systems to track and detect suspicious activities within your network.
That is all for our look at hacking and how to prevent it. By implementing these measures and maintaining a good level of cyber security, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to hackers.
*Source: IT Governance