Everyone has heard of hacking and probably seen it portrayed in a flashy and unrealistic way on the silver screen.
Of course, until you fall victim to a cyber attack in real life, you likely won’t realize what’s involved, and how insidious this trend can be for individuals and businesses alike.
The best defence against hacking is understanding how it’s achieved and appreciating what the impact on compromised sites and hardware looks like.
So let’s discuss this topic in detail and empower you to improve your online safety as a result.
Put, hacking describes any process by which a third party gains unauthorized access to systems or software.
It can be carried out in a clandestine fashion through a malware infection delivered from a phishing website or email. It can be handled directly by a human hacker, whether by accessing a device in person or attacking it remotely over a network connection.
Hacking is a term that even covers acts of social engineerings, such as calling up an unsuspecting victim and tricking them into giving you login details, including a password for an online account.
The aim is generally to steal sensitive information and use this for personal gain, or even just for professional prestige in the case of career hackers.
The important thing to appreciate about suffering a successful hack is that, if the attacker has done their job well, you won’t necessarily realize that your site or device has been compromised. And the costs can be severe.
Because of this, you need to be clued up on what telltale signs will indicate that a hack has taken place, including:
Checking whether your phone has been hacked
If you’re worried that you’ve had your Android phone hacked, there are a few ways to find out if you’ve been hacked.
First, installing a security app will let you scan the devices for any dodgy code and eradicate it.
Second, slower-than-usual performance could suggest malicious processes are whirring away behind the otherwise unaltered façade of your handset’s OS.
Third, high levels of data usage which don’t reflect your browsing habits indicate malware may be siphoning info elsewhere.
Fourth, major dips in battery life imply that an infection is eating into your available energy.
Checking whether your website has been hacked
Having a compromised mobile device is one thing, but a hacked website is even worse because it could expose visitors to infections, or even allow your site to be used as part of a DDoS botnet.
Various signals should raise your suspicions, with unusual network activity being a big concern. If you can see that your site’s available bandwidth is being used at a rate that belies the amount of traffic it’s handling from visitors, then it’s worth investigating further.
Poor server performance can also arise from a hack, in much the same way as a mobile device’s user experience will suffer when hardware resources are being commandeered by malicious code.
Furthermore, if your website has an associated email server, check that this hasn’t also been hijacked in an attack. Compromised accounts might be leveraged by cybercriminals to run their own spam campaigns, posing as legitimate messages to your list of contacts.
Staying safe in the face of hacking threats
Crucially you don’t have to wait until you’ve fallen victim to a hack before you act. It’s better to prepare for this likelihood and aim to avoid it, which you can do in several ways, such as:
The malware gives hackers a back door into your device or website, so it’s sensible to try and avoid it wherever possible.
First, make sure that the websites you visit aren’t infected. Only use legitimate, reputable sites on any device, and don’t click links in unsolicited emails.
Second, if you do install software from third parties, do so via respected app stores, especially when using a smartphone.
Third, have security software installed so that any site you visit or software you download is automatically scanned so that infected examples are deflected before they can do damage.
Keeping software up to date
Even if you follow best practices for staying safe online, hacks can still occur if attackers are able to exploit loopholes and vulnerabilities in your device or website.
Tech firms know about this, which is why frequent updates are issued for all major software solutions. It’s your duty to install these updates without delay.
Hacking is a growing problem, and costs people and businesses billions each year in defrauded cash and lost revenue.
Victims learn the hard way that attacks can come from anywhere, at any time, so preparedness is crucial and caution is the best way to proceed, even if you consider yourself to be an experienced user of online tools.