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As you probably know, it’s critical to protect your data nowadays. A bad actor with your sensitive information can stalk you, dox you, commit financial crimes, or commit identity theft. To protect your privacy, you may arm your computer with top antivirus software, a firewall, and even a good VPN (Virtual Private Network).
But clever black hat hackers can get past your digital defenses if you’re not careful. Let’s look at some common ways a hacker can gain your sensitive information:
#1 Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are fake emails meant to deceive recipients into downloading malware or sharing their sensitive information. Usually, phishing emails are sent out in bulk and are caught by email filters. The email may deliver malware through a corrupt attachment, malicious link, or fraudulent website. The fraudulent website could also have a fake checkout system designed to document your confidential information.
Spear-phishing is more challenging to identify because it’s customized to deceive a specific target or small group of targets. Unlike regular phishing, spear-phishing emails aren’t sent out in bulk. A scammer may design a spear-phishing campaign based on your information.
For example, they may notice your travel plans from your Twitter profile and send a fake email from your travel agent asking for your credit card information to pay for some made up emergency fees. Alternatively, a spear-phishing campaign may target a group of employees based on their work-networking profiles.
Smishing is like phishing, but for your mobile phone. Targets of smishing receive fake text messages to their mobile phones, usually with malicious links or attachments.
#4 Trojan Horse Attack
A Trojan horse is a type of malware that uses deception to breach your digital security. For example, a Trojan may masquerade as a free word processor to trick users in an accounting business. The malware was named as such after the Greek mythology story where the city of Troy was deceived by a giant wooden horse gift with Greek soldiers hiding inside. There are several ways Trojan malware can steal your data:
- Some Trojans can open a backdoor on your computer and allow a cybercriminal to breach your privacy.
- Trojans that attack instant messaging can copy your login credentials and help a hacker read your information.
- Hackers can use some Trojans to drop spyware on your computer and read your emails, usernames, and passwords.
With scareware, a hacker can generate anxiety to cloud your judgment. For example, you may see a popup on your screen that says your network is under attack. The message may even show you your IP address to prove that it’s legitimate. The popup may ask you to download some malicious program or speak to a tech support agent and share your private information.
Pretexting is when a hacker pretends to be someone else to gain sensitive information. For example, they may pretend to be your employer, co-worker, or customer. They may even pretend to be a romantic interest.
As hackers use more sophisticated attempts to deceive us, we must be more vigilant on the Internet. Identifying red flags can help us stay safe from all types of social engineering attacks.