Ten years ago, people got surprised when someone got hacked. Today, getting hacked is as common as getting a parking ticket. Every year, millions of accounts and devices get compromised by hackers, who steal important and sensitive data and use it for their own advantage.
There are two types of breaches or hacks that cause users to lose their data, and could possibly turn into an ugly incident of identity theft. The first type, which is usually impossible to prevent at a user’s end is when a company’s server gets infiltrated by hackers, who then steal the credentials of thousands of users. Such breaches usually result in formal investigations and often lead to lawsuits.
The second type of breach is usually the outcome of insufficient Wi-Fi security measures and weak passwords that a user sets on their accounts. Leaving a device unlocked also falls in such breaches. This situation gets even worse when a hacker gains access to their home network setup, which allows the hacker to have complete access to connected devices as well.
Logging in with defaults
For anyone to log in to the control panel of their Wi-Fi router, a username and password is required. An out-of-the-box router will have these credentials set to default, which in most case is admin, for both the username as well as the password. Manufacturers of other specialized routers may set different defaults, but these defaults can easily be accessed by anyone.
It may be very surprising for you to know that the default usernames and passwords for all routers are easily available online. Furthermore, most people do not change their default credentials, making it extremely easy for hackers to snoop on their routers and intercept their personal data.
It is highly recommended that you change your default credentials immediately. Also, you should never share your router’s credentials with anyone. Otherwise, your privacy and security can be compromised.
How Hackers Hack Wi-Fi
There are a number of ways how hackers can gain access to a public Wi-Fi network and infiltrate connected devices to steal data. The most common practice that hackers use is called sniffing. This method allows hackers to hijack any packet of data that is being transmitted between a device and a router.
Once the packet has been hijacked, the hacker transfers it onto their device and runs brute force programs on it in an attempt to decipher it. There are countless software available online which make sniffing a very easy process.
Sniffing a packet and decoding it into useful information is a quick process; the least time it may take can be around ten minutes. However, if the hijacked packet is encrypted heavily, it may take up to a few days for it to finally get deciphered, but eventually it will get deciphered.
You may have noticed that your smartphone or laptop automatically connects to networks that they have been connected to previously. Our devices are capable of remembering previous connection logs and assist us in establishing the connection automatically. This feature, which is there to provide convenience to users, can be exploited by hackers in a very smart yet simple way.
To hack devices via spoofing, all a hacker needs to do is set up a new network with stronger signals. He will also need to use the same SSID as the legit router. This causes devices and computers to automatically connect to the newly set-up Wi-Fi router, enabling the hacker to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic.
Wardriving, or access point mapping, is done by spotting and exploiting wireless local area networks while driving around in a car. Hackers do this by carrying a laptop, a wireless Ethernet card, and an antenna to boost the signal.
In most cases, wireless networks of organizations broadcast signals not only within the office premises but also in its surrounding area. These signals can be picked up by hackers and used to intrude into the organizational network.
Once done, a hacker may have access to free internet, company records, and other sensitive organizational material. Surprisingly, big companies like Google have also been accused of wardriving. However, Google says that it never used the data that was collected in the process.
It’s only natural for us to set up a strong password on a router and believe that all our communication is being encrypted, making it safe and secure from hackers. And that is true. Routers do encrypt all data that they send, and decrypt it with the decryption key when they receive it.
However, hackers have gotten way too smart and become more capable of cracking even the most complex encryption keys with the help of tools and software. There are a number of ways a hacker can crack the encryption of a Wi-Fi router.
For instance, hackers can resort to using brute force on the router in a bid to crack its decryption key. The process can be time-consuming, but it gets the job done in most cases.
Hackers Love These Places
Hackers from around the world have become extremely efficient and smart at their game of identity theft. Their purpose is to gain unauthorized access to your devices and steal credentials, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, which they can use to make purchases, often of illegal items from the dark web.
What better place would there be for hackers to go about their business than a public place where thousands of people come and go each day, spending a few minutes each and connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot during their stay.
Hackers exploit our need to remain online and hack public Wi-Fi hotspots so that they can gain access to hundreds of devices simultaneously. This increases their chances of finding whatever they are looking for.
Following are the places hackers love the most. It’s best to avoid connecting to the public Wi-Fi at these places, otherwise sensitive data on your device can get stolen by hackers.
- Shopping Malls
- Theme Parks
- Coffee shops
- Conferences and conventions
- Public Library
- Subway Stations
How Hackers Hack Android Smartphones
Researchers in the cyber security industry have concluded that hacking an Android phone is way too easier as compared to phones that have a different OS. It does not take much of an effort for a hacker to spy on your Android device. All they need to do is send an SMS or an MMS to your phone, which can crack its security when you open it.
Moreover, many hackers have uploaded malicious apps to the Google Play Store. These apps may seem to provide a different functionality, but in the background, they are sending your personal information to the hacker, such as credentials and banking information. This can give a hacker complete access to everything on your device.
A hacked Android phone can do the following:
- Retrieve contacts and all their information
- Retrieve call logs and messages
- Track location using GPS
- Monitor real-time messages (sent and received)
- Capture image using the camera
- Stream microphone sound and videos
- Send SMS and make calls
- Open a webpage in the default browser
- Make the phone vibrate
How hackers hack iPhones
Yes, iPhones can also be hacked via Wi-Fi. These smartphones come with great built-in security, making it impossible even for Apple to access its contents.
Furthermore, all the apps available on the App Store are vigorously screened before they become live, which eliminates any chances of malicious apps being made available for public downloads.
iPhone security gets compromised when a user jailbreaks their iPhone. While this nifty trick provides great functionality and exceptional features that are otherwise not available on an iPhone, it puts you at a great risk of getting hacked.
To keep your iPhone completely safe from hackers, refrain from jailbreaking it. Also, avoid opening any messages from senders that you do not recognize. Moreover, smartphone charging stations at public places may infect your iPhone with a malware, so avoid charging your device at public places.
A hacked iPhone can do the following:
- Device slows down in performance
- Sends/receives strange text messages
- New apps install on your device without your knowledge
- Battery drains out more quickly
- Device gets hotter than before
- Some apps do not work properly
- Increased use of data
- Never-seen-before popups appear
Complete solution for all your Wi-Fi problems
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When you connect to a VPN, your real IP address gets masked, and you are assigned a new pseudo IP address. This changes your virtual location and makes you invisible online. Even when you are connected to public networks, hackers will be able to see everyone else and penetrate into their devices, but you will remain invisible.
There is more to it. PureVPN encrypts all outgoing data with its extremely efficient military-grade encryption. While it is impossible for hackers to ever intercept your data, the added encryption aims to make that data unusable for hackers in an unforeseen event where the data may get intercepted. Get your subscription today, and secure your personal data!
Detailed Glossary of Hacking Terminology
|Attribution||Getting to establish the person behind a hack is known as attribution. After a major breach takes place, this is what is done as the first response. However, it is very difficult as hackers hide their identity via multiple services capable of masking their real identity as well as location.|
|Backdoor||Exploits and vulnerabilities in a program that can be used to gain unauthorized access into a server.|
|When a hacker engages in illicit and unapproved activities for personal benefits, he is known as a black hat hacker.|
|Botnet||Multiple networks of computers or devices which are established or controlled by a cyberattacker is known as botnet. They aid cyberattackers to carry out DDoS attacks. Hackers do so by embedding malware on different websites and applications which eventually make their way into thousands of computers. The infected computers become a part of botnet this way.|
|Brute force||Sequentially trying all the possible options for a password until the correct match is found is known as brute force. This is the least sophisticated method that a hacker could use. It usually takes a lot of time.|
|Bug||Any error or fault in a program, code or software which affects its functionality is called a bug.|
|Cracking||Being able to bypass the security of a program or a system for malicious purposes is known as cracking.|
|Crypto||Cryptography, or more commonly known as crypto, is a digital method of secret communication which encrypts all data.|
|Chip-off||Physically removing a memory storage equipment/chip from a device to extract data from it.|
|Websites which are not indexed by Google and can only be accessed through specialized browsers such as Tor.|
|DDoS||Due to its ease of execution, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack is the most popular type of cyberattack. It is often executed with the help of botnet.|
|Deep Web||Material that is available online, but is not for public use is called the deep web. This includes encrypted networks, paywalled sites, and password protected webpages.|
|DEF CON||A very popular hacking conference that takes place in the US. It started in 1992 and has been taking place in Las Vegas every summer since then.|
|Digital Certificate||These prove the identity of a user or website on the internet. Having a digital certificate means that the user or website is legit and actually authenticated to access the data it is trying to. A website that has a digital certificate will display a green padlock on the browser’s address bar.|
|Encryption||Scrambling data in a predefined order to make it unreadable for anyone who is not the intended user.|
|End-to-end encryption||A process where data is scrambled when it leaves the recipients device and can only be rearranged to produce meaning on the intended receiver’s device.|
|Evil maid attack||For an evil maid attack to be successful, a hacker needs physical access to device. Once he has the access, he installs software on the device which decrypts the encrypted information and sends it to him.|
|Exploit||To take advantage of any vulnerability that is present in an application or a device. Such vulnerabilities can allow hackers to gain unauthorized access to devices and steal data.|
|Forensics||In the cyberspace, forensics are the digital footprints or trails that hackers or cyber attackers leave behind, which can be used for attribution.|
|GCHQ||The Government Communications Headquarters concentrates its efforts towards terrorism threats in the cyberspace; one of its objectives is to curb child pornography.|
|Hacker||These can be good guys as well as bad guys. If they break into a system with the consent of the system owner, for finding vulnerabilities, they are called white hat hackers or ethical hackers. However, if they break into a system without consent to steal information, they are called black hat hackers.|
|Hacktivist||A hacker who utilizes his skills for political gains and purposes.|
|Hashing||Similar to encryption, but information is not totally scrambled while hashing. Only its order is changed for secure storage.|
|Controlled data transfer across the web is done via HTTP, while HTTPS is used for added security, where “S” stands for secure. Protocols, such as SSL and TLS provide protection and security as well as authenticate that the site is legit.|
|Infosec||Short for “Information Security”, often used instead of cyber security.|
|Jailbreak||Bypassing manufacturer’s restrictions and evading security protocols to make a device capable of features it doesn’t normally support.|
|Keys||This is a small code which contains information needed by a computer or a device to decrypt an encrypted message.|
|Malware||Short for “malicious software” a malware can hack a target device and even damage all data on it.|
|Man-in-the-Middle||A very common type of cyber-attack where a hacker puts himself between two devices. This enables them to intercept and even alter all the ongoing communication. They can also passively monitor the data.|
|Metadata||Information that reveals what a packet of data contains is called metadata.|
|NIST||National Institute of Standards and Technology (US Department of Commerce) develops information security standards and protocols that the federal government uses.|
|Nonce||Short for “number only used once”, is used to identify and authenticate users for a one-time session.|
|OpSec||Short for “operational security”, this practice is in place to decide what information needs to be protected, and from whom.|
|OTR||Short for “Off the record”. This is used for communication and data transfers that are extremely sensitive, and need to be destroyed after the intended user has seen it.|
|Password Managers||An online or a smartphone based application used to secure all credentials in a secure and encrypted vault.|
|Penetration testing or pentesting|
|Every time a new system is setup, it needs to be tested for vulnerabilities. It is intentionally hacked to check if it can withstand digital penetration. This is known as pentesting.|
|PGP||Short for “pretty good encryption”, this is a specialized kind of encryption. It deploys asymmetric cryptography for encrypting emails and other forms of communication. This makes the communication appear as scrambled text in case it gets intercepted by a hacker.|
|Phishing||A form of social engineering where receivers of phishing emails are made to believe that the email is relevant content. Clicking on the email can lead them to a login page of any popular email or social media service, prompting them to log in. When a user attempts to log in, their information is sent over to malicious individuals, providing them with credentials.|
|Plaintext||Important information which is stored as it is and is not encrypted.|
|Pwned||When a hacker gains access to a system, this jargon is used. “The system has been pwned.”|
|RAT||Short for Remote Access Trojan, RAT can provide a hacker complete access and control to a machine.|
|Ransomware||A special type of malware which has become very popular recently. It infects a machine by encrypting all the data files on it and demands money as ransom for unlocking it.|
|Rainbow Table||Complex methods which can allow a hacker to easily guess the real password which is hidden behind a hash.|
|Red team||A team of hackers hired by an organization who do pentesting and try to hack the company’s network. This allows the organization to find vulnerabilities in their system.|
|Root||This refers to complete admin-level access. Once a hacker has root-level access, he can install uninstall and delete anything from a device.|
|Rootkit||A specialized malware that gets activated every time a machine is turned on, even before the OS starts. This makes it very difficult to detect. It is capable of capturing and controlling all data present on a machine.|
|Salting||To add an extra layer of protection to sensitive text such as usernames and passwords, a series of random characters can be added. These random characters are known as salt, and add an additional layer of security.|
|Script kiddies||A less skilled hacker who is able to pull off small hacking and cracking stunts with the help of available software.|
|Shodan||Commonly known as hacker’s Google, this search engine displays a list of all the connected devices on a network. This list can include webcams, baby monitors, smart thermostats, printers, fitness trackers, smart TVs, and even HVAC systems – basically all the IoT devices.|
|Sniffing||Intercepting data and sifting through it to find valuable information like credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers or other credentials.|
|Social engineering||Making phone calls, meeting people, pretending to be someone else, and doing things that one is not supposed to do, all with the sole intention of extracting classified information is known as social engineering.|
|Spearphishing||A more specialized form of phishing where hackers deceive users into clicking malicious links.|
|Spoofing||Using forged email addresses, websites, and networks, which look like another network to deceive people.|
|Spyware||Malicious software tailored to steal useful information, such as credentials and banking information, from a user.|
|State actor||Hackers who are backed by the government and are given tasks to hack websites and servers that belong to other countries.|
|Threat model||A detailed future plan which aims to envision how hackers may try to attack a system in the future. Knowing the threats beforehand allow the concerned people to implement robust security measures before an attack actually takes place.|
|Token||A device which serves as an extra layer of security on top of a password, and is used for authentication purposes. Even if the password is stolen, token would still be required to authenticate a session.|
|Tor||Short for The Onion Router, this browser is usually used by privacy concerned users who want to remain anonymous online. This browser makes it possible to access the dark web.|
|Tails||Short for The Amnesic Incognito Live System, this operating system ensures that no history is ever saved. Every time you turn on a machine with Tails OS, it is like you are turning it on for the first time.|
|VPN||Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN allows its users to become invisible online. This enables them to stay safe from hackers, and scammers who may be on the look out to steal private data.|
|Virus||A malware which is usually hidden in a software. It is capable of stealing or deleting important data.|
|Warez||Pirated software that is mostly distributed on illegal content websites such as torrents. It may contain malware which can infect a user’s machine.|
|White hat||A hacker who aims to protect and fix systems by finding its vulnerabilities and reporting them so that they can be addressed.|
|Worm||A specialized kind of malicious program capable of self-replication. It uses all the available storage, clogs the memory and slows down a device’s performance.|
|Zero-day||A bug which is unknown to the software engineers or developers and has not been patched yet.|