How do I hack thee? Let me count the ways


May 4, 2017

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In today’s world, most things can be done via the internet. Booking vacations, ordering clothes, banking… You name it, most of us have done it online. But as the internet aids us in these tasks, it also exposes us to a wide variety of security risks in the name of “ease.”

Have you ever stored credit card information online or saved a password in your browser? That data is now living out on the web, and is susceptible to being stolen by third parties. Check out some of the top ways you can be hacked and how to avoid being targeted.

Email phishing

How you can be hacked: Email phishing scams are probably the most common way that people fall prey to hackers. Although today’s users are savvy about spotting spam, email scams have become more sophisticated. Hackers are able to spoof email addresses to make it look like messages come from senders you personally know, and they can also tailor subjects to be relevant to the receiver. When you click a link or open an attachment within such emails, your computer – and even your entire network –may be infected with malware, giving the hacker full access to your information.

How to avoid it: The best defense against phishing scams is to be educated about what phishing looks like. Watch out for misspelled words, bad grammar and weird formatting, and don’t forget to check the display name against the email address – in a lot of cases, they don’t match up. For instance, the display name may say “Accounting,” but the actual address is a string of numbers or nonsense. Do the same check on the URLs of any links in the email, and be wary of any email asking for money, inquiring about banking information or seeming overly aggressive about urgency.

Public Wi-Fi

How you can be hacked: We’re always looking for public Wi-Fi at the airport or shopping mall – after all, it’s convenient and free. Unfortunately, it’s also most likely not secure. Information sent over these networks is almost never encrypted, and even networks with password access may still be unsecure. What’s more, hackers can trick you by establishing a spoofed Wi-Fi connection with a name that’s one letter or number off from the network you are looking for. When you log in, they can go through your browsing history and any data stored there (remember those saved passwords and credit information?).


How to avoid it: Never send your credit card information over public Wi-Fi networks, no matter how legitimate they seem. If you are going to save passwords, vary them across accounts so that if hackers break into one account, they don’t automatically get access to most of them. Most of all, even though this isn’t convenient, you should turn off the option to automatically connect your device to the nearest Wi-Fi network. That way, you have more control over when you connect and to which networks.

Stolen devices

How you can be hacked: Not all identity theft happens over the web. Stealing phones, tablets and laptops is incredibly common – in fact, one laptop is stolen every 53 seconds! Unfortunately, most people have not taken measures to protect their devices beyond creating a simple login password. An experienced hacker can break that in no time, and then all the information stored on your device can be accessed and used (think back, again, to those saved browser passwords and stored credit card data).

How to avoid it: First and foremost, try not to leave your phone or computer anywhere that isn’t secure. You should also be sure to employ higher security measures, such as encryption and multi-factor authentication. We’ve discussed encryption on the MyITpros blog a lot because there is no better way to protect your data than by rendering it useless to cybercriminals. You can learn about the places where encryption is essential in your business here. Multi-factor authentication involves only allowing access to a device after multiple, separate pieces of evidence are given to an authentication mechanism – typically something like the correct answer to a knowledge question, the details of a possession (such as a bank card) or an inherence factor (such as a fingerprint). Mobile devices are starting to utilize a combination of knowledge factors (a password) and inherence factors (a fingerprint) as a security baseline.

There is an infinite amount of ways that companies and individuals alike can be hacked, from the simplest email virus to the most sophisticated level of ransomware. Arming yourself with up-to-date security practices – and, more importantly, educating yourself about the threats that are out there – are your best defense to avoid falling victim.

MyITpros has been advising businesses on security best practices for 24 years! Please contact us today to learn more about our security solutions or visit our services page!

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