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Capstone Works, Inc. Blog

Capstone Works, Inc. has been serving the Cedar Park area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How Hackers Steal Your Data (Part 1 of 2)

securityIt’s no secret that your data is a hot commodity. Each day sophisticated cybercriminals attempt to make money by stealing your private information to pose as you, blackmail you, or simply sell your information to someone who will. If you want to stay in business, you’ll need to be able to thwart these attempts. But to do so, you must understand the increasingly advanced methods hackers use. In this two-part article, we’ll examine the techniques hackers are currently employing to gain access to your sensitive data.

Cracking Passwords

The fact that hackers might simply guess your passwords probably seems painfully obvious, but the hard truth is that many companies still lack proper password management. If your password is a series of common words, a dictionary attack can use algorithms to cycle through a word database and quickly discover your chosen phrase.

Simply adding some numbers won’t be enough, either, as hackers can up the ante with a brute force attack which allows them, with some additional computing power, to cycle through alpha-numeric combinations until they strike gold.

And if they are very determined and well equipped, a hacker can also use a rainbow table attack. When passwords are attempted, they are “hashed” to avoid sending the actual plaintext password over the communication line. In this type of attack, pre-computed tables are used to recover these hashes and reverse them to reduce guessing time and discover complex passwords.

To prevent these, you’ll need to create unique passwords that are more than ten characters long and have a mix of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols for each account. One popular trick for this is to think of a phrase and codify it. For example, “Cousin Greg lives in Seattle” becomes “C0u$iNGr3gLiV3SinS3ATtLE”.

Additionally, you should use multi-factor authentication whenever possible so that your password isn’t the only thing standing between an attacker and access to your accounts.

Phishing Schemes

One of the most common methods of data hacking, phishing scams are so effective, they’ve produced many high-profile data breaches including the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who unknowingly gave up his Gmail password, and Snapchat, where an employee gave up payroll information that led to widespread identity theft.

In a phishing scheme, disguised e-mails are used to lure the recipient into a trap. Posing as a trusted source, such as someone you do business with, your bank, or your email provider, hackers trick you into providing them information directly, clicking a link that leads you to a fake site, or downloading an attachment that then allows them access to your system. One of the oldest tricks in the book, phishing is an evergreen technique that is continually being re-invented in order to become harder to spot.

The best way prevent being hooked in by a phishing scam is to study the way they are being used and stay vigilant. Make sure to check the spelling of URLs in email links and watch out for URL redirects. Keep your browsers up-to-date to ensure you have the most recent security patches and install anti-phishing toolbars on your browser that can run checks on sites you visit and compare them to a database of known phishing sites. And, of course, never give out personal information over email.

These are two of the most popular ways attackers attempt to gain access to your system but stay tuned for Part 2 of this article as we dive into three more sophisticated methods cyber attackers are currently using. Concerned you’re not as safe as you thought? Contact Capstone Works immediately. Our cybersecurity professionals have the expertise to make sure you’re one step ahead of the latest tricks, scams, and hacks that could threaten your business.

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What is your Identity Worth to You?

Your identity has quite a lot of value, especially in the wrong hands. Security firm ZoneAlarm put together some numbers in 2011 concerning identity fraud, and it even shocked us. Let's talk about a few of these statistics and what it means.

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