4 Common Ways Hackers Steal Passwords (and How to Protect Yourself)

With the amazing advances the human race has made in technology in recent years, we have been able to access the world in an entirely new way. We can now communicate with people and form lasting bonds without ever meeting in real life, shop from our favorite stores and brands, and stream music and movies right to our homes with little more than a few clicks on a keyboard.

But with all of the good that has come with these technological advances, there are sure to be some less favorable traits that come with them. While the good does outweigh the bad in most cases, it is extremely important for anyone using the internet today to know how to protect themselves from the most prominent online threat: hackers.

Hackers use computers and the internet to gain access to the information people store online. This information can include account passwords, bank account and credit card details, and a whole host of other confidential information. If it’s stored on the internet, a hacker will be able to find it.

So how do we protect ourselves from hackers? Well as they say in football, the best offense is a good defense. Knowing how and why hackers steal your information, to begin with, is the best way to learn how to protect it. Keep reading to find out the 4 most common ways hackers access your information, and the best ways to keep it from happening to you.

1. Keylogging

Have you ever received an email from a company that didn’t look quite right asking you to download something to your phone or computer, only to call the company and find out they sent out no such email? Yeah, same. This is a commonly used method by hackers to attempt to get victims to download malicious software on the devices known as keyloggers.

Key loggers store all of your keystrokes. That means when you log in to your online banking, your Facebook account, and then do some shopping on Amazon, every single thing you type is saved and accessed by a hacker.

While hackers might have a hard time getting this software on your computer once it’s there the consequences can be quite detrimental. Lucky for us, protecting against keyloggers is quite easy. Any decent anti-malware program, such as Malwarebytes, will be able to spot keylogger infections and help protect your data.

2. Reusing Passwords

Do you use the same password for every account you have? I know I used to until I learned that this is one of the easiest ways to get hacked.

Hackers know that people often have a hard time keeping track of several different passwords, making it more likely for them to use the same password across most or all of their online accounts. While this definitely makes it easier for us to remember our passwords, it can also be harmful if a hacker was to ever learn this password.

Password managers are a great solution to this problem. By downloading a free online password manager you won’t have to worry about remembering all of your different passwords, while simultaneously better protecting yourself against future hacking attempts. Password managers keep your passwords safe inside a personal ‘password vault’ that can only be unlocked by your unique password. That means the only password you’ll ever need to remember is the one that unlocks the vault.

3. Phishing

Phishing is the easiest way for hackers to get your information, hands down. Hackers who use this method are able to replicate many commonly used websites to steal your login in details. These kinds of scams are commonly used in emails stating you need to update your payment or login details and contain a link to their fabricated website.

Phishing schemes rely on trusting people who believe they are attempting to login to an authentic website. These hackers will then store your information, either to use themselves or to sell.

If you ever receive an email asking you to click a link to login and change your information, it is better to err on the side of caution and go directly to the website itself to do so. Another great way to protect yourself against phishing is to use two-factor authorization wherever possible.

4. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is one of the most high-risk forms of hacking currently. It is also known as breach replay or list cleaning. In these scenarios, hackers already have a list of stolen account credentials, such as usernames or passwords, which they can then cross-check with commonly used websites to see if there is an account match.

This form of hacking is another reason why it’s a good idea to use unique passwords for all of your accounts. When you avoid recycling the same password over and over, you essentially make it harder for anyone who gains access to one of your accounts to gain access to all of them.

If you struggle with coming up with strong passwords, consider using a password manager. Password managers are able to generate quality passwords, and even store them for you so you only have to remember one password- the one that unlocks every other password.

Hackers have evolved with technology, and some of them have become incredibly convincing. By following these tips, you can do the very most to keep your accounts, passwords, and confidential information safe from hackers.


Updated September 13, 2020

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