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6 Common Hacking Techniques and How to Avoid Them

Posted on December 8th, 2021

According to the recent Verizon Data Breach Investigations report, 45% of breaches featured hacking in 2020. With high-value information such as user credentials and credit card information being stored on personal devices and transmitted freely online, hacking techniques have evolved to become more sophisticated than ever before. A well-executed hack can lead to significant reputational repercussions and recovery costs for breached organizations, so it’s important to be aware of common hacking techniques and how to prevent them.

What is cyber hacking?

Cyber hacking refers to the process of exploiting devices such as computers, smartphones, networks to cause extensive damage to systems, gaining unauthorized access, stealing data and documents, or disrupting data-related activities. Hackers are growing more refined and stealthy, often using attack methods designed to go completely unnoticed by trained security professionals. Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to solely rely on antivirus softwares or use hard-to-crack passwords to stay well protected from this criminal approach.

3 types of hackers to be aware of

Even though hacking is commonly associated with illegal activities and data theft, it is not always considered a malicious act. There are two main components that determine the nature of a hacker -- their motives and the legality of their actions. From then, hackers are organized into three groups: black, white, and gray hats.

Black hat

Black hat hackers are responsible for creating malware, which is often used to infiltrate networks and systems. Black hats spread malware, gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, and steal personal information, and are motivated by financial and personal gain. These hackers can range from amateurs to highly experienced individuals.

White hat

White hat hackers, also known as ethical hackers, are often employed or contracted by organizations as security consultants to detect potential vulnerabilities within networks or systems. Even though the white hats’ methods are the same as black hats’ they always have authorization from the system’s owner – making their actions entirely legal and beneficial. White hat hackers often conduct penetration testing, monitor in-place security systems, and carry out vulnerability assessments to strengthen the organization's security posture.

Gray hat

Gray hat hackers usually seek out security gaps in a system without the owner’s permission or knowledge – making their actions illegal. However, these individuals will report any vulnerabilities they detect to the owner, but they will request some compensation or incentive. If the owner refuses their proposition, there is a chance that these hackers will exploit those security flaws. Unlike black hat hackers, gray hats typically aren’t malicious by nature but do seek compensation for their efforts.

6 common hacking techniques and how to prevent them

Now that you are aware of the different types of hackers, let's look at six common hacking techniques and how to prevent them.


Phishing is the most common hacking technique. A lot of our inboxes are filled with phishing messages containing malicious links daily. Phishing messages are usually under the disguise of either a reputable organization or a person that you trust. The purpose of these messages is to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment.

98% of phishing attacks come in the form of email correspondence. For that reason, it's important to always confirm the validity of the email with the sender before clicking on any suspicious links and double-check to see if the sender’s email address is official. Consider also making security awareness training mandatory, this will keep employees on high alert of the many potential threats that come their way.

Cookie theft

The cookies in your web browsers store a wealth of information about you – browsing history, financial data, and usernames and passwords to all the different sites we access regularly. Hackers can steal and decrypt these cookies to reveal your personal information, and may exploit the passwords they contain to impersonate you online.

It’s important to know the difference between a secured and unsecured website. For example, websites that begin with HTTPS:// are secured, on the other hand, sites that start with HTPP:// are not secured because they do not have SSL (Security Socket Layer) certificates. In addition, you can routinely clear your browser and system caches to reduce the number of cookies you have accessible for potential attacks.


According to a 2021 Mimecast report, 61% of organizations experienced a ransomware attack that resulted in partial business disruption. One of the most effective weapons hackers can leverage is malware – viruses, trojans, ransomware, worms, etc. This malicious software can deliver great payouts for hackers that successfully infiltrate your systems and networks. It is critical to always be cautious and exercise due diligence when clicking on links or opening an attachment to avoid becoming infected. This can include blocking pop-up windows in your browser, limiting downloads to only approved software and applications from reputable manufacturers, and updating your security software regularly. It's important to continuously monitor your systems for vulnerabilities, as well.


Hackers may leverage a keylogger, a small piece of software, that can be downloaded into your computer to record the strokes you make on a keyboard or clicks and movements of your mouse. These log files can hold sensitive data such as passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and more. Many banking and eCommerce websites use virtual keywords to encrypt the text input as they click on each key – helping to protect themselves and their organization against this kind of attack.

Malware-injected devices

Hackers can also leverage hardware, such as USB flash drives, to sneak malware into your devices and gain remote access as soon as they’re plugged in. All it takes is for one person to give you a malware-infected USB drive for a hacker to have complete access to your information. To protect yourself, it’s important to be extremely careful about plugging anything into any work or personal device.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack refers to an attempt to disrupt the traffic of systems or networks by overloading them with internet traffic. In a DDoS attack, hackers often deploy botnets to carry out their malicious deeds. As a result, the server is unable to process all of the requests and finally crashes – leaving it vulnerable to and disrupting the critical business operations of an organization. Organizations can protect themselves from DDoS attacks by continuously monitoring network traffic and sifting through incoming traffic for potential threats.

How SecurityScorecard can help

Nowadays, the advent of advanced technology has made it easy for your corporate systems and networks to be inadvertently compromised. Hackers are constantly searching for new ways to breach networks and steal data, leading to techniques that are growing more sophisticated than ever before.

Fortunately, SecurityScorecard Security Ratings empower organizations to strengthen the cyberhealth of their entire ecosystem by providing comprehensive visibility into network and system vulnerabilities – all from a hacker’s point of view. That way, you’ll know exactly what critical risks your organization is currently facing and be able to effectively prioritize remediation efforts – allowing you to always be one step ahead. Curious to know how your organization is performing from a security standpoint? Get your free score today.

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