By Jennifer Adams
In the world of computers, there are those who create new ways to help others communicate, and those who use technology for dishonest purposes. The internet is such a vast place that many assume no one will target their computer or network. They are wrong. Most hacking targets are unpatched networks that can be easily hijacked and used to launch thousands more attacks. You are no less of a target than a large business. Other than their own ingenuity, hackers rely on computer codes to break into your network, giving them power over unassuming users. Understanding how hacking works can help you to better protect your business and your privacy.
Why do Hackers Hack? Aside from stealing sensitive information, credit card and banking information, and obtaining passwords, hackers can create so much traffic that a website has to shut down. Hackers can be anyone from adolescents looking for mischief to get into, to recreational hackers who intrude because they feel it is their right. This can be anyone who holds a grudge against a website, for whatever reason, and seeks revenge by hacking in and disrupting the entire network; to professionals who aim to break into bank accounts to steal money. Codes can also be encrypted into emails that will spy into your emails.
How do they do it? Anyone connected to the internet is susceptible to being hacked. There are thousands of different programs hackers use to invade computers and networks. Once installed, these programs allow them to review each keystroke the computer makes so that the hacker can guess passwords, monitor activity, and gather everything needed to infiltrate the system, or even steal someone’s identity. These programs can detect the level of security a network is protected by or if it’s not protected at all, so they know exactly how to best break into the system.
From educated guesses, to algorithms that generate combinations of letters, numbers and symbols, this trial and error method of hacking passwords is called a brute force attack. Another method of hacking is called a dictionary attack, which is a program that inserts common words into password fields until they guess the correct one. This is why many systems have a limit on how many times you can enter an incorrect password before it locks your account. Once a hacker gains access to your computer, they can install a keylogger to capture every username and password typed, spoof your email by sending emails to your contacts containing malicious links and spyware, copy traffic on your network including credit card transactions and bank account login credentials.
How do I protect my network from hackers?
By arming yourself with resources and knowledge, you’re less naïve and quicker to recognize any potential security threats to your network. Several ways to protect yourself while online are:
- Monitor credit card and bank accounts closely and report anything that looks off right away. If you notice any charges on your bank account or credit cards that you don’t recognize, immediately call your bank or card company and report it as well as freeze the account.
- Limit the amount of personal information posted online about yourself or your business. The less information a hacker has to work with, the harder it is for them to hack into your network. Many people create passwords using the name of their child or pet, or an anniversary or birthday. Even though these are easy to remember, they are also easy for a hacker to guess, especially if they are posed online where anyone can view.
- Create strong passwords, and never use the same password twice. A good rule-of-thumb for creating strong passwords is to use capital and lower-case letters, numbers, and a special character. Avoid using the name of a close family member or pet, as well as any significant dates.
- Use a multifactor authentication on all accounts. When you enter your password for the account, you will be asked to enter a code that is either emailed or texted to you before you can proceed to the next page.
- Consult a Managed IT Provider. This is perhaps the best way to be sure you are doing everything possible to protect your security. You can never go wrong consulting a professional because you will get a solution and product recommendation tailored to best suit your business’ needs.