Can you imagine how scary it would be to show up to work one day ready to dominate, and then BAM! All your confidential files have been stolen and your computer is now a breeding ground for cyberviruses.
What if you just launched a new product, which you’ve been advertising for months, and suddenly your website is down and customers are being redirected to a competitor’s site? Or worse, you can no longer access your online banking account.
These are just a few examples of what can happen when hackers get their hands on your data. And it’s not just big businesses that are at risk – hackers will target anyone at any time, regardless of the size of the business or individual.
Being prepared and knowing how hackers work is not only imperative, but it’s the best defense against becoming a victim.
So how do hackers get their hands on your data? And once they have access, how long does it take to collect sensitive information? To help you prepare well in case of an attack, we will introduce you to the mind of a cyber attacker and the areas they consider the easiest to carry out a hack.
Understanding the mind of a hacker
This is the first step in being able to protect yourself against them. So what motivates a person to want to commit a cyberattack?
There are three main reasons:
- personal gain
The most common motivation for hackers is self-interest, which includes everything from stealing money or data to selling sensitive information on the black market for profit.
Revenge is just as common, especially among employees who have been terminated or who feel they have been treated unfairly by their employer. In these cases, hackers will try to gain access to corporate systems to delete files, destroy data, or take down the entire system in retaliation.
Hacktivism is when hackers use their skills for political or social gain. For example, they may target a company or government agency they disagree with to try to disrupt their operations.
Now that you understand what motivates hackers to commit crimes, let’s take a look at how they work.
The stages of a hack
There are four main stages of a hack:
- Get access
- Maintain access
Reconnaissance is the first step, and it involves gathering information about the target. Hackers will use a variety of methods to do this, including social media, Google searches, and even public records.
The second stage is scanning, which is when hackers start looking for vulnerabilities in the system. They will use special tools and software to do this, and it is during this stage that they will also decide what type of attack they will launch.
Access is a given – that’s when they breach the system and start stealing data or wreaking havoc.
And finally, there is maintaining access. This is when hackers ensure that they can come back and access the system again at any time undetected. They will do this by installing backdoor programs or planting malware.
How long does it take to hack someone?
Because technology is constantly changing, it is difficult to give an exact answer. However, according to a study of 300 ethical hackers, the average time for a hacker to collect data is only five hours. Additionally, while approximately 64% of respondents said it took them less than five hours, 24% said it only took one to two hours to get the job done. Can you imagine how devastating it would be if a hacker could access all your data in such a short time?
It just goes to show that you can never be too careful when it comes to cybersecurity.
The most common methods used by hackers
So we have already covered what motivates a person to commit a cyberattack and the steps of a hack. Now let’s see how a hacker can disrupt digital systems.
With social engineering, people are tricked into disclosing sensitive information. This includes customer data, passwords, and even social security numbers.
It is important to be aware of this type of attack, as it is becoming more and more prevalent. Hackers are increasingly adept at disguising themselves to look like legitimate companies or individuals, so be careful about who you share your information with.
Although phishing is a type of social engineering, it is worth mentioning on its own as it has become a very serious problem in recent years.
Phishing attempts are usually emails or text messages that appear to come from a legitimate and real source, but are actually from a hacker. They will often try to trick you into clicking on a link that will take you to a fake website where you will be asked to enter personal information.
Credit card phishing attempts are one of the most common types. As if hacking wasn’t enough, now you also have to worry about fraudulent charges. In fact, 80% of chargebacks are related to fraud, so it’s increasingly important to have a good fraud prevention strategy in place.
Web applications are another popular target for hackers because they are often not as secure as they should be. This is especially true for older web apps that may not have been updated for a while.
Hackers can exploit web application vulnerabilities to access sensitive data, plant malware, or even disable the entire system.
These are just some of the most common methods used by hackers to collect data.
What can you do to stay protected?
When it comes to cybersecurity, the best defense is a good attack. That’s why it’s so important to keep up to date with the latest security threats and have systems in place to counter attacks.
Have a robust security system in place
It should go without saying, but having a solid security system is essential to deter hackers in the first place. This includes things like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and malware protection.
Some great widely used and trusted security systems are Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender.
Make sure your software is up to date and backed up
One of the best ways to stay protected is to make sure all your software is up to date. This includes things like your operating system, web browser, and any security software you have installed.
It’s also a good idea to regularly back up your data in case of an attack, so that you can restore it if necessary.
Train your employees
Your employees are one of your greatest assets, but they can also be one of your greatest weaknesses. Hackers often target employees to try to gain access to your systems.
That’s why it’s so important to train your employees in cybersecurity best practices. Worker training includes:
- Teach them to be careful who they share their information with
- Advising them not to click on suspicious links
- Encourage them to report suspicious activity
The more hazard-aware employees you have, the better equipped you will be to defend against them.
Although cybersecurity may seem like an endless journey, there are some things you can do to stay protected. These include keeping your passwords strong, using two-factor authentication, backing up your data, having strong security software in place, and most importantly, staying informed!
With these tips in mind, you can help protect your data from hackers!
Image credit: Adike/Shutterstock
Social engineering Image credit: tashatuvango/depositphotos.com
Lee Li is a project manager and B2B copywriter with a decade of experience in the Chinese fintech startup space as PM for TaoBao, MeitTuan, and DouYin (now TikTok).