Around the world, there were over 304 million cyberattacks recorded in 2015, according to PandaLabs. With an estimated annual cost of 100 billion dollars, one of the largest cyberattacks happened in 2017 when hackers compromised Equifax and gathered data from more than 143 million customers, as reported by the The New York Times.
A hacker has many different tools that compromise business and consumer data for malicious use. With worms, Trojan horses, and many other malicious programs at their fingertips, hackers are able to capture passwords and access sensitive data without the knowledge of the computer user’s knowledge.
Good computer networking technicians will research all the tools of the hacking trade and understand how best to combat these breaches. They will also understand how a DDoS attack works and what makes up the Internet of Things.
Tools of the Hacking Trade
The importance of anti-malware software can’t be understated, as there are many hackers from around the world trying to capture personal information, credit card numbers, and passwords in order to steal from computer users. They will use what is at their disposal including worms, Trojan horses, rootkits, spyware, keyloggers, phishing scams, Flash cookies, web bugs, fake sites, pharming, and port probes.
Worms – A worm is a self-replicating computer program that penetrates an operating system with the intent to spread malicious code, consume bandwidth, delete files, or send documents via email. If a worm becomes active on an infected system, it can infiltrate an organization’s network.
Stuxnet is one of the most well-known computer worms. It was hidden in an infected USB device and made to target a specific supervisory control and data acquisition system.
Trojan Horses – A Trojan horse is a program designed to breach the security of a computer system typically to allow hackers to gain access to a user’s system. Unexpected changes to computer and network settings, even when the network is idle, are indications that a Trojan horse has infected a computer network.
The Trojan horse can give the hacker a backdoor to your computer or network. It can also download and install a virus to exploit your computer network.
Rootkits – A rootkit is a collection of programs that enables administrator-level access to a computer network. This software is designed to hide, once an operating system has been compromised, by replacing vital procedures needed to run the Windows operating system.
Spyware – Spyware is software that gives hackers the ability to obtain information about a user’s computer activities and to collect personal information or monitor internet browsing habits.
Keyloggers – A keylogger is a computer program that records every keystroke made by a computer user with the purpose of gaining access to passwords and credit card information. The hacker may send you a link to click or tap on in an email or instant message. Once clicked, the computer downloads a Trojan horse program that begins to record all keystrokes by you, known as a keylogger.
Phishing – Phishing is an email-based scam designed to persuade computer users to reveal confidential information about themselves. Often, the phishing email seems to come from an authoritative source. The user must either reply to the email or click/tap on an embedded link for the scam to continue.
Once you enter any personal information or log into your computer or other software program, the hackers see the password and then have access to your personal information.
Flash Cookies – Flash cookies are set and used by Adobe’s Flash Player, which is installed on 99 percent of all computers. Flash cookies collect and store personal data so that you can come back to a movie or video mid-play. Since almost every computer uses Flash cookies, some hackers are using them to replace ad serving cookies.
Some hackers can access a computer’s camera and microphone through a Flash program without the user’s knowledge. It is important to go to the computer’s settings manager to adjust Flash settings. For added security, it is recommended to put something over your webcam when not in use.
Web Bug – A web bug is a 1 x 1 pixel graphic embedded in a webpage or email message. It is used to track who is reading the webpage and/or that person’s email address. Web bugs are used by hackers to monitor the number of people who viewed a junk email, using that data to determine future exploits.
Fake Sites – Fake sites look legitimate but are created by a third party to mirror a legitimate website. Once users enter their credit card data into this fake site, it is added to a hacker’s database.
Pharming – Pharming is an exploit that redirects users to fake sites by overriding a Domain Name Server (DNS) with a false IP address. The links look to be from a legitimate website, however the DNS points to an alternate IP address. New anti-pharming tools are being used to compare IP addresses to known suspicious IP addresses in an effort to crack down on pharming.
Port Probes – Hackers are continuously browsing the internet with a tool called a port probe. A port probe is automated software that locates computers with open ports. Many printers and file sharing tools have open ports. Deactivate these ports if you do not need to share files or printers.
How to Combat Hackers and Undesirables
To properly shield yourself from cybercrime, use all the tools in your security toolbox, including antivirus software, anti-malware software, firewalls, strong passwords, encryption, and regular backups of important data.
The computer network technician will want to implement antivirus and anti-malware software, use a firewall to stop anyone from breaching important information, encrypting data and communication and backing up data to make sure there is a copy of all information in case of loss or corruption.
Antivirus Software – Antivirus software detects and destroys computer viruses. A computer virus is code that is capable of copying itself to corrupt a system or destroy data. The antivirus software should be kept up-to-date to combat new viruses that are being created on a regular basis by hackers.
Anti-Malware Software – Anti-malware software protects computers from infections that are aimed to steal data from the user or computer. Anti-malware software scans for malware using a database of known malware definitions or signatures. If the software detects a file that matches a definition, it is flagged as potential malware.
This special software can remove malware, however some malware is designed to cause further damage to your computer if removed. In this case, the anti-malware software will quarantine the file in a safe area of your computer’s storage.
Firewalls – A firewall is the part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting outward communication. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and another outside network that is assumed not to be secure.
If you have more than one computer connected, it is important to have a hardware firewall or router to protect the network and prevent the spread of a virus if one computer becomes infected.
A network firewall filters traffic between two or more networks. Network based firewalls are positioned on the gateway computers of LANs, WANs, and intranets.
Encryption Programs – One way to freely distribute communication and data on the internet or between computers without issues is encryption. Encryption is the process of transforming accessible data into an unintelligible code that cannot be read by normal means. The encryption process uses a key and an algorithm to turn the accessible data into an encoded piece of information.
There are several ways to encrypt files, including encryption of the hard drive, encryption of computer files, encryption of online traffic, using an encrypted search browser, encrypting communications with a virtual private network, and hiding your IP addresses.
Don’t forget to use a strong password when setting up an encryption process, as the password acts as a decryption key. Make sure your password uses upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters and is longer than 15 characters.
System Backup – Backing up is the process of archiving a copy of data if needed to restore the original after a data loss or hack event. Backups have two primary purposes, to recover data after it is lost by data deletion or corruption and to recover data from an earlier time.
DDoS Attacks: Is Your Organization Vulnerable?
Your organization’s network resources are vulnerable to a DDoS attack. What is a DDoS attack? A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack uses multiple compromised computers and the Internet of Things to attack a company’s server, website, or network resources.
The attack will inundate the organization’s network resources through an increase in incoming queries and connection requests that forces the network resources to slow down or crash.
One of the most common ways of gaining unauthorized access to a computer network is by looking for open ports. If an open port is listening for requests, a hacker can exploit it and gain access to your organization’s network server.
What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things is the network of devices, home appliances, vehicles, and anything with a computer chip and network connectivity that allows them to exchange data. The Internet of Things is all around us, and almost everything with a computer chip can access the internet to talk with mobile devices. This could be a baby monitor that syncs with a mobile phone for a parent to keep an eye on a child or a surveillance camera that is used to secure your house.
The baby monitor, surveillance camera, and the Internet of Things can be used to take down computer networks through a DDoS attack because most of them do not have any type of protection from unauthorized users. Without proper security, the Internet of Things can be used to attack a computer network or website and deny service to its users.
Interested in learning more about the tools hackers use to penetrate network servers, ways to protect your organization’s network from being compromised, or learn more about DDoS attacks and the Internet of Things?
The Computer Technician Networking Specialist program at Hunter Business School is designed to prepare computer networking students for entry-level positions in the fields of electronics, computer technology, and networking. Students build their own computers and use them in the learning process.
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