Hacking by Solis Tech: How to Hack Computers, Basic Security and Penetration Testing (2014)
Chapter 3: What Hackers See During a Sweep
When you already developed the mind of a criminal hacker within you, you will want to attack the following people:
1. Those who have files or identities of value
2. Those who have websites that generate enough traffic or host many sites
3. Those who are easy to hack
When you look at this line of thinking closely, you will realize that mostly everyone can be a potential target. Any person who has a credit card and makes noticeable purchases can be a good target. It would definitely be a bonus to a hacker if he lands on an unsecured credit card information and more. When you think about it, there are a lot of possibly unsecured personal information that can turn into profit just lying around online!
If theft is not the goal of a hacker, you definitely would still not want anyone to send you any information that is not useful at all, like spam. Your activities online also reveal your preferences, thereby targeting you for unfair advertising. Google, for example, allows all its third party vendors to see what you are searching for, which prompts them into thinking that you are a valid lead for a product. While you may be interested in what they have to offer, you do not want advertisements to pop up in your screen all the time.
How Hackers Sweep
Now, let’s figure out what hackers see about you (or the organization that you are currently serving). The best way to do that is to launch a web search on Google to yield as much results as possible. Doing a simple Google search will tell you all the blogs, social media accounts, and mentions about you in all websites where your information is not encrypted. You will also possibly see all contact numbers and addresses that you have had in a single search.
If you have a company, a simple web search will also tell you the following:
1. Names of your employees and their contact details
2. SEC filings
3. Most important dates about your companies
4. Names of your partners, plus details about mergers and your large purchases
5. Trademarks and patents
6. Presentations, web videos, webinars and articles
What does that tell you? It means that whenever you go to a website or have an online subscription, you are leaving trails of your identity online for everyone to see. That means that whenever you use the Internet or send a file online, someone is tracking your behavior. That information is useful to any malicious hacker.
If a hacker detects that you are possibly worth hacking, then he may proceed into digging deeper into the Internet. He may choose to do so by doing the following techniques:
1. Using keywords
Keywords allow any user to search for any particular information that is potentially searchable online. If your phone number is not listed right away in the first 10 results you see on Google, then you may use a keyword to see if it is hidden in a less popular website or webpage.
2. Through advanced search options
Any user can search filters embedded in most browsers to search for all the websites that link back to your information or your website. This will reveal all third party vendors that would possibly have your information, and also all your affiliations.
3. Through web switches
You can search for words or phrases that are connected to you or a file in your website. To do that, you can use the following lines in a Google search:
You can even use a Google search to find a particular type of file in your website. Here is a string that you can use to do that:
By using the above string, you can search for all the .swf files and download them. This filetype can store sensitive information such as credit card information or addresses, which can be targeted for unauthorized download and decryption.
4. Through web crawling
Web crawling tools, such as the famous HTTrack Website Copier, can be used by any malicious hacker to mirror a particular website by downloading all files or fields that are accessible publicly. That provides hackers the opportunity to study a website and all its engagement by having an offline copy of the following:
a. Layout and configuration
b. Files and directories
c. Source code
d. Comment fields, which may display the email addresses and names of developers and IT personalities, as well as IP addressing schemes.
Now that the hacker is aware that a website or a particular person he is investigating online has a lot of files that can be useful to him, it makes sense for him to dig deeper into how he can possibly launch an attack. At this point, a hacker will attempt to scan your system and map out how your network is setup.
You can think about this activity as the planning stage of a thief. In order to break into a house successfully, he has to have a visual of your floor plan. For that reason, he has to know the best way to enter through the property, enter the room where the valuables are, and then sneak out unnoticed. The same line of thinking goes for those who want to deface a property for a prank.
You may ask: why would a hacker think about sneaking out, when the theft and vandalism is happening through computers anyway? The reason is because most hackers would not want to leave a trail that leads to where they physically are. Take note that as a rule of thumb, whenever you send data or download something from the web, you leave crumbs behind, which can reveal where the computer used for the illegal activity really is. For that reason, a malicious hacker would want to do what it takes to remain undetected in order to steal your data repeatedly.
However, as long as you can figure out where a hacker probes and what method he is using to look for your computer’s vulnerability, you can possibly trace him back. Here are some of the most popular ways to probe into a computer’s network system:
1. Use information that can be found on Whois search
Yes, there is a website that actually reveals how a website is laid out, including its IP address and the bunch of hostnames that it uses. Whois allows all users to view running protocols, available shares, applications, and open ports when you do a search for a website. You can also find whom the website is registered to when you do a search there.
2. Use internal host scan
Internal hosts are invisible to most users, and server owners do want them to remain that way. Hackers often probe internal hosts to see whether they are within the scope of any protection. When they are unprotected, a malicious hacker can set up shop within your internal hosts and remain undetected!
Other Popular Way to See Who to Attack
A malicious hacker would also want to see who the neighbors are and how they can be attacked. There are many reasons why they would want to do that: first, they are more likely to obtain more valuable information about the people who are near them than blindly launching an attack on a person that they have not seen before. Second, they can easily use their neighbor’s Wi-Fi connection to mask their activity and lure authorities that the attack is coming from something else. Third, once a Wi-Fi connection is breached, they will also have access to their neighbor’s networking system and proceed to attack their personal files for profit.
That means that the most dangerous hackers are the ones who are near you – not only do they see and hear a lot of clues about what your password could probably be, they have a lot of means to launch a social engineering attack (you would learn more about this later) and dupe you into giving them the answer to your security question on your social media account. At the same time, you can also unknowingly give them a free pass on your Wi-Fi connection and clog your bandwidth with large downloads, or worse, use your location to attack another person!
Turn Down the Noise to Prevent Attacks
At this point, you may be thinking that the people who are most vulnerable to attacks are those who are generating too much information online. At a point, that is true. Hackers do not normally attack anyone who does not garner their attention. In order to prevent this from happening, make it a practice to minimize how attackers can possibly see you.
1. Turn off your SSID broadcast
Your SSID shows the name of your Wi-Fi, and also the clue that you are just close by. Turning it off will prevent any attacker close to your location from knowing that you are online. Doing so will also prevent hackers from noticing your Wi-Fi connection and attract them into attempting to hack it.
2. Use Virtual Privacy Networks (VPN)
VPNs are great for two reasons: they mask where your location is, which prevents any hacker from knowing where your activities are located and conceal your identity online; plus they also allow you to access websites that are locked according to locations.
3. Take down all your unused subscriptions
You do not need thirteen emails and multiple blogs that you barely have time to manage. These only serve as breeding grounds for spam and phishing scams. Take them down as soon as you can.
4. Ask websites to remove your personal information
If you see your contact number or address from any website, then you can contact the webmaster to remove them from public access for your privacy. That would prevent anyone from contacting you without authorization and prevent you from receiving spam or phishing mails.
By doing these things, you will make it hard for any malicious hacker to notice you and then think of launching an attack. But what can you do when a hacker already launched an attack against your computer system? At this point, you will have to go back to the basics and understand how a malicious hacker would get into your computer.