When it comes to security, passwords are among the weakest link. When a bad actor gains access to your credentials, your data is almost certainly in danger of a breach. It’s hacking and data breaches that keep all CIOs and CISOs up at night. Why? Because nearly everyone is vulnerable to phishing attacks, credential stuffing, keyloggers, and so forth. It’s no joke. The number of tools and techniques available to hackers and cybercriminals is mind-boggling, to say the least. Many you haven’t even heard of yet and that’s just the beginning.
1. Phishing Attacks
If you thought that credential stuffing was bad, phishing is even worse because you are unknowingly giving bad actors your username and passwords.
It’s estimated that nearly 70% of all cybercrimes begin with phishing attacks. For hackers, they love this technique. It works all too well to steal your information for their own use or to sell it to others on the dark web.
Phishing attacks almost always come through emails that contain a fraudulent link or a malicious attachment. When the user clicks on either, the hacker presents a fake account login page where the user enters in their credentials. Hackers may also use other forms of interception which as a man-in-the-middle attack to steal user credentials.
A malware attack is a common cyberattack where malware executes unauthorized actions on the victim’s system. The malicious software (a.k.a. virus) encompasses many specific types of attacks such as ransomware, spyware, command and control, and more.
Criminal organizations, state actors, and even well-known businesses have been accused of (and, in some cases, caught) deploying malware. Like other types of cyber attacks, some malware attacks end up with mainstream news coverage due to their severe impact.
Example – WannaCry ransomeware attack.
3. Social engineering
Social engineering is a manipulation technique that exploits human error to gain private information, access, or valuables. In cybercrime, these “human hacking” scams tend to lure unsuspecting users into exposing data, spreading malware infections, or giving access to restricted systems. Attacks can happen online, in-person, and via other interactions.
Scams based on social engineering are built around how people think and act. As such, social engineering attacks are especially useful for manipulating a user’s behavior. Once an attacker understands what motivates a user’s actions, they can deceive and manipulate the user effectively.
4. Dictionary attack
A dictionary attack is a method of breaking into a password-protected computer, network or other IT resource by systematically entering every word in a dictionary as a password. A dictionary attack can also be used in an attempt to find the key necessary to decrypt an encrypted message or document.
Dictionary attacks work because many computer users and businesses insist on using ordinary words as passwords. These attacks are usually unsuccessful against systems using multiple-word passwords and are also often unsuccessful against passwords made up of uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers in random combinations.
5. Brute force attack
A brute force attack is a hacking method that uses trial and error to crack passwords, login credentials, and encryption keys. It is a simple yet reliable tactic for gaining unauthorized access to individual accounts and organizations’ systems and networks. The hacker tries multiple usernames and passwords, often using a computer to test a wide range of combinations, until they find the correct login information.
The name “brute force” comes from attackers using excessively forceful attempts to gain access to user accounts. Despite being an old cyberattack method, brute force attacks are tried and tested and remain a popular tactic with hackers.
6. Rainbow table attack
The passwords in a computer system are not stored directly as plain texts but are hashed using encryption. A hash function is a 1-way function, which means that it can’t be decrypted. Whenever a user enters a password, it is converted into a hash value and is compared with the already stored hash value. If the values match, the user is authenticated.
A rainbow table is a database that is used to gain authentication by cracking the password hash. It is a precomputed dictionary of plaintext passwords and their corresponding hash values that can be used to find out what plaintext password produces a particular hash. Since more than one text can produce the same hash, it’s not important to know what the original password really was, as long as it produces the same hash.
Spidering is a supplementary password cracking technique that helps with the above-mentioned brute force and dictionary attacks. It involves gathering information about the victim, usually a company, presuming that it uses some of that info for password creation. The goal is to create a word list that would help guess the password faster.
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