Methods People Use To Grab Your Data And Steal Your Identity – Part II

In part one, we’ve discussed some common methods that hackers use to get your credentials or otherwise steal your data. Unfortunately, there’s no way to cover absolutely everything, but we still can discuss other common methods. Today, we’re going to cover some more attack methods and how to prevent them, if at all possible. We’ll continue the previous discussion, adding more newer methods of cracking credentials and stealing identities.

Let’s get started:

  • Backdoors, Trojans, And Keyloggers. Perhaps one of the most common ways to get someone’s password is to record it while they’re typing it. A keylogger does just that: It records everything you type and sends it to a person via email or through a server message. Trojans and programs with backdoors sometimes contain keyloggers, allowing hackers to access your information. You won’t even know what hit you. You can prevent this by patching your system and keeping a strong eye on what you download. Anti-virus may help you prevent this, but common sense works best. Download applications only from trusted vendors. Be wary of applications that ask you to install other third-party stuff during their installation process. Don’t just click “Next” and “Yes” at every prompt.
  • The Black Hole Attack Toolkit. Ever since the Internet has been around, there have always been people who will stop at nothing to find vulnerabilities in connected computers. Today, one of the biggest threats to people connected across the globe is the Black Hole Attack Toolkit, a series of utilities and applications that use “zero-day” (brand new) exploits to get into people’s accounts on a number of different websites. The only way to prevent such an attack is to keep your software updated. Unfortunately, you’re still not immune, since the toolkit constantly evolves to compensate for such updates. You can only minimize your chances of falling victim to such an attack.
  • Credit Card Data Breaches. So far, we’ve talked chiefly about passwords, but your credit card is part of your identity. Even if you don’t order anything online, some establishments you go to might leak your data by accident and without their knowledge. Hackers often breach credit card databases to try to get a free lunch on your tab. The only way for institutions and establishments to prevent this is to comply with PCI-DSS, a set of standards developed for the protection of consumer data. PCI-DSS mandates organizations not to store any credit card data and use end-to-end encryption and authentication for credit card transactions.
  • Program Vulnerabilities. This is similar to the Black Hole attack toolkit and behaves in a similar way as a backdoor. A hacker may exploit a vulnerability in a program (such as Adobe Reader) and open a backdoor that infects your computer. These kinds of attacks are often used in “spearphishing,” a phenomenon in which an attack targets one particular individual or organization. Preventing this involves using the same methods as with the Black Hole attack toolkit and keyloggers.
  • Java Exploits. Many of the exploits in the Black Hole attack toolkit take advantage of vulnerabilities found in Java. Since Java is a code interpreter, it can be fooled into running a sequence that will turn it into a doorway for malicious people. Ever since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems (the developer of Java), there have been some security measures implemented that prevent things like this from happening. Still, Java is very old and very complex, making it easily exploitable even with tight security measures. It’s wise to run applications you truly trust to prevent this. However, you can never be completely safe from such exploits.
  • Wardriving. In part I, we spoke about network sniffing across wireless networks. This is the same concept, except that the person is actively searching, usually within a vehicle, for wireless networks that are unsecure to sniff them. To prevent this, secure your network through WEP/WPA/WPA2 encryption. The most preferable form of authentication for your Wi-Fi network would be WPA2, whenever possible. If you don’t have such a technology, resort to WPA, and so forth.
  • VoIP Phishing (Vishing). Much like “Social Engineering (Phishing)” in part I, vishing involves convincing a person to give out their authentication credentials or gathering information about the person throughout a conversation that makes it easier to guess the password. However, vishing is accomplished through VoIP, as opposed to instant messaging and other text-based communication. To prevent this, ensure that the person you are communicating with is from a trusted establishment and never give away your passwords to any individual.
  • XSS. Cross-side scripting (XSS) is a very powerful tool that hackers use to frame a fake page within the URL of a legitimate one. Let’s say you’re on Facebook and are sent a link to a funny video. When you click the link, you still see Facebook’s domain name in the URL and the Facebook login page, so you log in. Once you click the button to get into your account, you are suddenly directed back to your home page. What just happened is that a hacker has sent you a URL with the Facebook domain and a cross-side script attached to it leading to a framed fake Facebook login page. Once you “log in,” your password and username are sent to the hacker. To prevent such an attack, make sure you have a good look at the URL. If the page is a simple login page, but the URL is unusually long, you’re probably being led into a cross-side script.

After learning about each of these attacks, perhaps the best advice you can take out of this is that you must be generally cautious and vigilant. Chances are you won’t be 100% safe, but you can get near that level if you exercise prudence.