Anatomy of a Cyber Attack: How Hackers Get Inside Your Systems

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Yellow tape with “Crime Scene Do Not Enter.”

Ever wonder how your business could be breached by anonymous hackers? It’s easier than you might realize. Even if you don’t think your business is a likely target, hackers don’t discriminate when it comes to low hanging fruit. There are two million potential cybercriminals on the dark web at any given moment looking for their next payout. 

We’ll break down how a cybercrime happens so you understand why being prepared and protected is crucial. Cybercrime doesn’t happen overnight, criminals use automated programs that can take months. Hackers are patient and methodical. Here’s what you should know about how they operate so you can prepare accordingly.

The Four Steps of a Cyber Attack

1. Reconnaissance

Before anyone can get into your system, they need to gather information. This is more than some manual one-person research project. Hackers use “crawlers” or automated programs to comb your website and network for sensitive information and vulnerabilities. 

Crawlers can take months before they yield any useful entry point. During that time they search for vulnerabilities in logins or firewalls and try to gather personal information about your employees including name, title, email and phone. They can then use this information to mount their attack.

It’s important to note that hackers aren’t just targeting your business during this process. Their automated software crawls across the internet scanning thousands of other organizations for opportunities. However, if they hone in on a vulnerability in your cybersecurity, they will work to exploit it, including your remote work portals.

2. Attack

Once hackers establish a way in or have gathered information on key employees, they can attempt their attack. Every attack will look different depending on the motives of the hacker and the circumstances. There are two primary ways a hacker might gain entrance:

  1. By emailing an unsuspecting employee a link that installs malware.
  2. By using a password cracking tool that exploits a vulnerable entry point.

Whether a hacker breaks into your system through your firewall or by baiting an employee, once in, they are difficult to detect or stop. Regularly updating your cyber defense and educating employees against phishing and other attacks can significantly reduce your risk.

3. Expansion

After their initial attack, a hacker will use malicious programs to expand their reach throughout your network. Their goal is to either steal or encrypt information to sell or to inflict damage for financial gain.

If these malicious programs continue to run in the background of your system for an extended time, they can attack your back ups. Over time, they can reduce your ability to restore your system and will eventually attack your network. 

Once hackers become embedded in your system, they will likely contact you to demand ransom. They might threaten to destroy your network or create a PR nightmare for you if you fail to meet their demands. 

4. Ghost

The final step of a cyber attack is to cover the trail. Hackers usually mask the origins of their attacks to avoid detection. If you don’t know how an attacker got in or how much of your data they stole, it can be difficult to prosecute or recover. 

For this step hackers will again use automated software to erase any evidence of their presence.

The Cost of Cybercrime

It’s difficult to put a cost on an attack on your business. Many businesses never recover. Unfortunately, cybercrime is an easy career to get into with potentially large payoffs. Hackers no longer need to be technological experts, they simply need $20 and a lot of bad intentions.

The dark web is an endless marketplace where novice hackers can purchase information and software to become cybercriminals. For $30 they might buy your social security number. For $4 they can get your credit card number. 

Websites contain all the information and resources a hacker needs including:

  • Entry points to the dark web
  • Search engines
  • Proxy browsers
  • Encryption guides
  • Market places
  • Financial services

Why do hackers continue to thrive? Because there is always someone to exploit. Don’t be the business hackers infiltrate. Know how to maintain a secure cyberdefense and know how to stop hackers before they get a foothold in your system.

Protect Your Business Against Cyber Attack

We’ve shown you how a cyber attack works. Is your business prepared? Thriveon’s proactive approach to holistic IT gives you the best possible defense against all types of cyberattack. Schedule an meeting today to learn more about how we can protect your valuable data and keep your business off hacker’s radars.

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