Tools of the Internet Criminal: Hacking and Phishing Explained

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Living in the information age brings with it certain challenges and pitfalls that are exclusive to its usage and operation. These situations range from the mundane, such as avoiding tripping over any of the myriad of cords and cables present with stationary devices, to the more serious, like the complete theft of your identity. These situations, and many more, make it necessary to follow certain guidelines in order to use it as safely as possible.

As mentioned, identity, information and raw data theft is a problem that has risen with the use of the internet by an order of magnitude. In the past, while identity and other types of intellectual theft were possible, it took a great deal more work to accomplish successfully. Now, virtually all of our lives, and everything that goes with them, is present on the internet, making them much easier to steal and use.

Data and identity thieves are separated into two main types: hackers and phishers. While these two overlap to a large degree, with criminals using both types of attacks on a regular basis, the individual actions that are performed are separated into these two main categories. In order to provide you with the most amount of protection against these attacks, let’s look at both in enough detail to provide you with simple and effective ways to guard against them.

Hacking

If there is one term that is considered synonymous with internet crime and criminals, it would have to be hacking. This is due not only to the amount of exposure it has received from news and law enforcement sources, but also because of the many movies and television shows that center around them.

Hackers are divided into different groups based on what they primarily do with their skills. For example, a black hat hacker is one that uses said skills mainly for destruction or personal gain. White hat hackers mostly use their skills and resources to test the effectiveness of the security of both corporate and private individuals, usually for a fee.

There are a wide range of tools at a hacker’s fingertips, each of which has specific areas that they are most effective at. Some of the most common are:

Password Cracker: As its name indicates, this piece of software is used to guess the password in question, usually by using lists of the most common passwords in use today.

Trojan Horses: Usually attached to an email, trojan horses are adept at finding specific security flaws and setting up back doors for the hacker to use to gain access to the target computer system or network.

Key Logger: As with trojan horses, a key logger is usually attached to a bogus email, which will install itself once the attachment has been downloaded. A key logger will then record each keystroke and usually email it back to the hacker for use in breaking into the system.

Phishing

While the goal of hackers and phishers are similar, usually to gain access to an outside computer or network with the intent of theft or destruction, the approach they use is different. Phishers primarily disguise themselves as reputable businesses or individuals, with the hopes that you will enter in your private information to access a bogus website.

A prime example of a phishing attack would be the construction and sending of an email designed to look exactly like one you would receive from somewhere you have an online account. Usually these emails will notify you of a fake attempt to breach your account, and provide a link to a website they have constructed to look exactly like the real website. Here you will be asked to enter in your account details to ensure its safety, information that will then be taken to the real website to use for exploitation.

How to Protect Yourself

There are a few different ways that you can decrease the possibility of being attacked, as well as actions you can take if you are. Some of the most common of these are:

Firewall: A firewall is a piece of software written specifically to guard your computer against any unauthorized incursion. If you connect to the internet in any capacity, having a firewall installed is vital.

Antivirus Software: As its name indicates this type of software is designed to protect you from installing a virus, as well as remove it if one sneaks in. Always keep your antivirus software up to date in order to have the most protection against the most recent attacks. We recommend Bitdefender, it is an exceptional tool.

Email Links and Attachments: It cannot be stressed enough that if you do not know the source of a received email personally, never click on any enclosed links or download any attachments affixed to it. However, given that hackers or phishers can easily mimic someone in your address book, it may be wise to check with the sender to ensure it truly came from someone you know.

Using the internet is something that can greatly enhance your life in a myriad of different ways. However, in order to keep your activities safe and secure, always be on the lookout for those who would steal your data and information for use in a wide range of illegal activities.