Due to the increasing integration between consumers’ financial lives and online technology, the subject of hacking has never been more important than it is today. Although the word has now entered our common jargon, hacking remains a mystery to most. In our culture hacking is revered as a difficult process reserved only for tech-savvy geniuses, a myth that has been propelled by inaccurate film portrayals and sensationalism in the media. Unfortunately, you don’t need to be particularly brilliant in order to crack into an account, as demonstrated in the first of the three main techniques employed by hackers explained below. Familiarize yourself with these tactics, because it is impossible to fully protect yourself without knowing who your enemy really is.
It’s as Simple as Guessing 1-2-3
Though it may come as a surprise, random guessing is one of the most common tactics used by hackers to break into your account. A depressing number of internet users tend to use the same, common passwords, such as “1234” or “qwerty”. All a hacker has to do is plug in similarly popular passwords with the hopes of getting lucky. However, don’t let the low-tech appearance of this strategy fool you. Hackers usually don’t enter every attempt by hand, and instead use software to do the legwork for them, which is why you sometimes see a CAPTCHA prompt when you log onto certain websites.
Additionally, many people forget that their password recovery questions can fall victim to the same strategy, and use basic facts about themselves as answers. Once hackers know which school you went to and the name of your first pet, they can reset your password to anything they want and take over your account.
Hackers Use More Sophisticated Methods as Well
Of course, there are viruses that can sneak onto your computer and steal your information. The most notable example of such spyware are keyloggers, which record every keystroke that a user submits. Once the hacker receives the stolen data, it takes little effort to decipher critical information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers, and addresses.
As with any virus, keyloggers can infest your device by piggybacking on a malicious download or even be secretly loaded onto a USB. However, by implementing a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce your chances of being infected by malware. Only allow people you trust to use your computer, and never use an unsecured network on your laptop or download something from a suspicious source. Also, make sure you’re using at least some form of anti-virus software, and avoid sites that are likely to host malware.
To Hackers, You’re Just Another Fish in the Sea
Another popular technique amongst hackers is “fishing”, which in place of technological smarts uses scamming and trickery. Like a fisherman, the hacker will set out some sort of a bait to dupe a consumer into handing over their password. For example, you might receive a text with the urgent warning that your e-mail account has been hacked. Upon replying, the sender posing as an official will instruct you to send your account information to them so they can fix the issue for you, only to never respond again. Of course, now that they have your username and password, they don’t need to. More sophisticated scams can even have fake sites with convincing addresses that look exactly like the real thing.
You can easily avoid being the victim of a fishing scheme by never giving anyone your password unless you are absolutely certain the site is secure and legitimate.
Sometimes, Hackers Don’t Even Need to Use Any of these Methods
With so many different accounts nowadays, keeping track of all your passwords can be difficult. To reduce this burden many people use the same password for all of their accounts. While this might seem like an easy solution, in reality, if a hacker somehow obtains the password for any one of your usernames, all they need to do is plug it in to gain access to your entire online life.