Types of Attacks - Hacking: A 101 Hacking Guide (2015)

Hacking: A 101 Hacking Guide (2015)

Chapter 3: Types of Attacks

The next step in preparing yourself to become a white hat hacker is to understand the different type of attacks that are launched against systems. Some of these words you may already be familiar with, but it is important to understand the difference between different types of attacks.

Malware is exactly what it sounds like: malicious software. Malwareis specifically designed to exploit backdoors. It’s sneaky, too: you can download malware at the same time you’redownloading some useful software from the web. That’s why many companies won’t allow their employees to download or install their own software.

A virus is malware, and like the common cold, loves to share itself with anything it can. A worm is a type of virus that spreads itself, worming its way into other systems by, for example, emailing itself. The often cause the denial of service attacks we talked about earlier as they broadcast themselves to other computers.

Remember the legend of the Trojan horse? The guys brought in this giant, awesome looking wooden horse their enemies left outside their gate. Once they brought it in, when they least expected it, their enemies came pouring out. A trojan in hacking speak is a piece of malware that lurks on a computer and will open a backdoor so that a hacker can access it.

How many times in the movies have you seen someone break down a door they can’t unlock? If they had a key, it wouldn’t be necessary. If they were skilled at lock picking, it wouldn’t be necessary, either. We call the act of breaking down a door as brute force. In hacking, brute forcerefers to something similar: it means using a program to generate every possible combination of characters, numbers, and symbols to figure out a password.

A Denial of Service (DoS) attack makes a website or server unresponsive. The black hat hacker sends so many requests to the website or server that it gets bogged down and essentially crashes.

Doxingis another disturbing hacking act: putting information about a compromised victim on the web, like passwords, email accounts, etc. It seems to be the hacking equivalent of writing your ex-girlfriend’s name and phone number on the bathroom wall with a message like,“For a good time, call….”

A drive by downloadworks like this: you land on a webpage, and without clicking a single thing or installing any software, malware is downloaded and installed on your computer. It can also happen via email or messaging, and can attack mobile devices as well. It usually takes advantages or browsers or apps that have a vulnerability that either hasn’t been addressed, or the user hasn’t downloaded the latest updates for. Websites that host drive by downloads include adult websites and file sharing websites.

Phishingis kind of like fishing. Let’s say you are going fishing. On the end of your fishing pole,you attach one of those rubber worms. When you dangle that fake worm in the water, you are counting on at least one fish down there to not be smart enough to tell the difference. You dangle the fake worm and wait…and then some fish will fall for the bait, and you catch them. In phishing, the hacker dangles something like a fake login form or a fake website and waits for someone who doesn’t recognize that it isn’t real. When they access it, just like a fish taking the bait, they have just given their information over to a hacker.

Port scanning involves determining which ports on a system are open and what services are running on them. Open ports are vulnerable to attack.

Spam means Spiced Ham in the supermarket, but in the cyber universe it means to harass someone (or something) by sending an onslaught of unwanted messages or requests. A spammer is someone who practices this annoying art.

To hackers, spoofing refers to pretending to be someone or something else in order to obtain in formation. One example is email spoofing, for example, where an email is sent out pretending to be from a credit card company and requesting that you follow the link and enter your credit card number to access vital information about your account. The goal is to obtain information from targets. Another type of spoofing is IP spoofing, where a computer appears to other to have one IP address, when it actually has a different one.

Spyware is a particular devious piece of software whose entire goal is to send someone a continuous flow of information about their target, without the target being aware. People usually think spyware is limited to computers, but spyware can be on your cell phone, too.

Another type of attack involves taking advantage of a bug in a program. As a simplistic example, let’s say program A has this one bug that if a certain variable named STARGATE ever exceeds 400 it will erase everything in your My Documents folder. However, when the developers checked out the bug, they determined that there is no way that STARGATE will ever exceed 400, but they are working on a patch to fix problem. A black hat hacker learns of this bug before the patch comes out, and figures out how to convince the program that STARGATE has a value of 501. You can image the rest! That’s why software is continually checking for updates, fixes, patches, etc.

Attacks are often classified as active or passive. A good example of an active attack is denial of service: you can tell when you are being attacked because your computer or server grinds to a halt. For passive attacks, packet sniffing and key loggers are excellent examples: something that could be intercepting your data without you even knowing it. Spyware and port scanning are usually passive attacks, also.

Firewalls and virus protection software are a first line of defense against many attacks, but require regular updating to keep up with new threats that appear. Keep in mind that skilled hackers know how the protection works! Many of the computer security software companies provide up-to-date information about current threats, which is something any hacker should be knowledgeable about. For example, McAfee provides statistics, a world map, and region specific virus information.

In the United States as of June 2014, Statista.com reported that the majority of cyber attacks against US companies took the form of viruses, trojans, and worms, followed by malware and botnets.

Online Resources:

Cyberattacks against US Companies: http://www.statista.com/statistics/293256/cyber-crime-attacks-experienced-by-us-companies/

US Adult Victims to Online Attacks: http://www.statista.com/statistics/294684/online-adult-cyber-crime-victimization/

McAfree Virus Information: http://home.mcafee.com/virusinfo?ctst=1

Norton Internet Security Information: http://us.norton.com/security_response/