Cyber attack with unrecognizable hooded hacker

3 of the Most Common Methods Hackers Use To Steal Your Data

Did you know that cybercrime is more profitable than the entirety of the global illegal drug trade? Some may find that statistic hard to believe, but it’s true. The illicit drug industry’s annual profit is around $400 billion per year, where cybercriminals are pulling in over $1.5 trillion.

When reading stats like this, it’s no surprise to learn that 86% of US citizens have attempted to decrease their digital footprint online in an attempt to protect their privacy. With that said, it’s hard to understand the best way to protect yourself if you don’t know where the threats are coming from. As the old boxing adage goes, it’s the punches you don’t see coming that hurt the most.

On that note, let’s take a look at three of the most common methods hackers use to steal your information so you can learn how to better protect yourself and your online data.

1 – Social engineering and phishing

The number of phishing websites on the internet has increased by over 130.5% in the last three years, which is a clear indication of how prolific this hacking method is for cybercriminals.

If you didn’t already know, social engineering/phishing is a manipulation technique that hackers use to lure people into willingly handing over their personal information online. They usually do this by impersonating a trusted source, such as a popular website or online service in order to deceive people. This gives people a false sense of security as they are lured into revealing confidential information.

How to protect yourself:

Some phishing attacks are more sophisticated than others; however, for the most part, the best way to avoid falling for them is to remain vigilant.

  • Think before you click on any web page.
  • Don’t open suspicious emails
  • Don’t download files that you don’t know
  • Always think twice before entering personal information or sharing confidential details with a source, no matter how trusted they may appear

 2 – Man in the middle attacks

Ever since the outbreak of covid-19, the number of remote workers across the world has shot through the roof. In fact, 52% of global employees now work remotely at least once a week. While this is great to help prevent the spread of the virus, it also means hackers are targeting remote workers more than ever before.

As you know, remote workers are more likely to use public wifi networks such as coffee shops, libraries, and co-working spaces to get their work done. These makeshift offices are the perfect places for hackers  to steal your online data through a variety of malicious attacks, the main one being a man in the middle attack (MITM).

In short, these attacks work by the hacker placing themselves in between your device and the public network you’re connecting to. They do this by taking advantage of unsecured or misconfigured networks, and then using various methods to intercept your data, such as passwords and confidential corporate data.

How to protect yourself:

The best way to protect yourself against MITM attacks is to use a virtual private network to encrypt your data. This prevents hackers from reading any of the data you send and receive over the web as your information becomes practically impossible to decipher. If you are concerned about your online security, using a VPN is practically a necessity.

3 – Malware

A malware attack is when hackers create malicious software intended to be installed on someone’s device without them knowing about it. Malware comes in various forms, such as viruses, spyware, ransomware, and trojan horses. Most, if not all, are designed to access personal data or to cause damage to your device.

Here are some of the most common ways malware can find its way onto your device:

  • Spam emails
  • Infected hardware such as USB sticks and removable drives
  • Hacked web pages
  • Bundled with software packages (from untrusted sources)
How to protect yourself:

Once again, the best way to protect yourself is to remain vigilant. Never download anything from a website that you don’t trust. Don’t open emails from unknown senders, and definitely do not click on any links that look spammy.

In addition to this, there has been a rise in infected removable drives, so avoid connecting them to your PC unless you are absolutely sure they can be trusted.

In summary

While the methods hackers use to steal your personal data are becoming more sophisticated, most of the attacks can still be prevented by implementing basic due diligence while using the internet.

Never download from untrusted sources, avoid opening suspicious emails, and practice good security habits such as regularly changing passwords and avoiding public wifi network hotspots whenever possible.

With that said, the best step you can take right now to bolster your online security is to install a VPN on all your devices. This makes your online activities virtually untraceable to both hackers and your internet service provider. The VPN encrypts your data by establishing a secure connection between your device and the VPN server, which provides a high level of security, even when using compromised public networks.

 

Staff Writer at CPO Magazine