A cyberattack does not happen unannounced, and the hacker does not simply pick up their laptop and begin crafting malware to attack your information system. Hacking is an organized process and very similar to stealing cash from the bank. Before you go blasting into the bank with your masks and toy pistols, you have to learn about the patterns and habits of the bank.
The information will ensure that you do not make any mistakes as you go about the bank robbery process. A hacking attack is similar to the digital footprints and patterns of the users of an information system, such as your company employees being the main study subjects.
The hacker has to understand what they are venturing to. They will first study your system in detail to ensure that they are aware of the level of security that you have in your information system. If you have higher-level security measures, they will be required to step up their game and create applications and tools that will be up to the security standards you have placed in your system.
Your firewalls will be studies closely to ensure that the hacker knows the vendor of the application. Knowing this enables them to study more about your software and the vendor that you get them from. Once the hacker has this information, they can carry out the cyber attack with higher chances of success. Hackers will not come unprepared, and the information that you make available to them and easily accessible from the public will factor into the success of their attack.
Background Studies: The Reconnaissance Before a Hack
Hackers have to study you through and through before they can make any attempt on your system. They will need to learn your behaviors and patterns used in your daily usage of software applications and information systems. For instance, how often do you upgrade the software applications that you use in your company?
This information will help them time their attack to coincide with a duration when using a version of the software behind the latest that the software vendor has patched up. The hacker will study your information system and your security mechanism closely. They will know how well you protect your information and what mechanisms you use to control access to the information you have on your computers.
The hacker will also need to know as much about your company or organization as they can. They will look for company registration information, background details and even go through your website to see the kind of personality that you have put up for the public to see.
Once they have this information, they will be able to build a profile for your company. The information that they will be collecting will be very useful later on in their hacking. They will be more accustomed to giving answers and providing accurate information to avoid suspicion and avoid many questions when they are doing something illegal.
Building a profile of your company will ensure that the hacker can easily impersonate anyone in your company. They will gather all the names of the employees and get their background information. Knowing personal information enables the hackers to impersonate people better, and when they finally strike, they will have brushed up on this art and gotten good at it.
The hacker will want to know all about your business, from the partners that you have to the kind of coffee that your employees drink during their break. Some of the information might sound unnecessary, but trust me, it will be useful when the hacker has started their adventure. The little details can fill many gaps when they are finally carrying out their hack, and as such, you will find that they will be more knowledgeable about the company than the employees themselves.
Understanding the enemy has been one of the main strategies that have been used in wars throughout history. In the Art of War, Tsun Zu said that understanding the enemy is being better than him.
When the hacker understands the structure and organization of your company, they will have already fought half the battle. Their understanding of your company structure, policies, and other publicly available information will ensure that they prepare better for the hacking attack. Additionally, the hacker will also try to dig deeper into some of the interesting details.
For instance, they will try to gather as much information as possible about the partners you do business with. What suppliers do you have, and what kind of business relationships do you have with them?
This information will help the hackers to have more points of entry into your information systems. They can even pretend to be the partners or suppliers to penetrate your security systems. By posing as logistics companies that you work with, the hackers will be able to lower your guard and infiltrate your system without setting off any alarms.
Hackers always do much research before determining if your company and security system is feasible for a hacking attack. They will find out all they can about your company and use it to ensure that they have a grip on your information system.
The security applications that you use will be studies, and the vendors will be researched in detail. When the hacker knows the vendors of the applications you use in your company, they will find out the common weaknesses of the applications. The vulnerabilities in these applications will be used to develop exploits that will be used to break into your security systems.
When you do not update your software applications regularly, the hackers will use this to infect your information systems. When you do not have automatic updates configured in your information systems, the hackers will have an easier time breaking through.
Hackers Avoid Suspicion
A hacking attack is a very sensitive undertaking, and the hacker will try not to attract any suspicion. Even when they are researching your company, they will be sure to cover their tracks. By covering their tracks, the hackers will ensure that you do not get back to them. You will be less likely to notice when there are anonymous inquiries about your company from the public.
Working under false identities, the hackers will patiently observe and wait until they can find weaknesses and an attack vector that can be used to break into your information system.
The hacker will try to disappear into the background once they investigate your information and security systems. Whenever the hacker is studying your company for any weaknesses in your security, they will try to be as silent as possible.
They will be as silent as Gollum following the wizard and Bilbo Baggins through the caves in the mountains. In doing so, they will gather up a lot of information that will be turned into useful tips and clues for when they finally carry out the cyber attack on your information system. The hacker tries to avoid detection as much as possible, and all their methods aim to make this possible.
The hacker will not try to post anything publicly, and they will only be gathering information. They will try to get as much information about your company as it can be made possible, and as they go about the research, they will be able to build a profile of your company.
With the information that the hacker has gathered from the research about your company, they will determine how well your systems are protected. The hacker will also determine if or not you have effective security policies in your company. Do you ask your employees to reset their passwords at the beginning of the month? Do you have rules for the employees that have been laid off to reset their passwords?
Such policies are useful for the company, and the hacker will be very keen on the information. They will do anything they possibly can to find out whether your security policies allow for relaxation of the rules or you are strict all the time. The regulations you have in place regarding your security policies will also be studied to ensure that the hacker has complete information before they can carry out the attack.
Your IT Team is the Main Target
Your IT team will be under investigation when the surveillance is taking place. The hackers will want to know how many nerds you keep around to take care of any intrusions and watch over your firewalls to ensure that they are keeping the traffic clean and safe. The hackers will research your IT staff and ensure that they know the talents and abilities that each of your team members has.
When they have this information with them, the hackers will be able to carry out a better attack that will consider the talents that your IT team has. For instance, do some of the IT team members have skills in programming and system administration. Are there any that can write a quick script to counter any of the offensives that the hackers will be meted out on your information system?
Knowing this is very valuable for the hackers, and they will not take a single step without knowing how well your information is secured. The hackers will also try to stay hidden by posing up under different identities.
Hiding Behind Proxies
Proxies will be common when the hackers are doing their reconnaissance since they will not want any of their information and identities to be traced back to them. They will use stolen identities to make themselves appear like other people and not raise any suspicion when researching your company. The hackers will try to be as discrete as possible, and they will not use the same IP address twice.
The hackers will be very well equipped when they are researching your company’s security systems. With an endless pool of IP addresses, they will appear as different people as they gather up the information that matters to them.
Hackers are very skilled people, and the attacks that they carry out on many information systems are not little ones. The damages they can cause are very deadly, and they can cripple information systems, bringing giant applications crushing down with their well-planned and executed attacks.
The hacker will also be willing to bide their time to get the best attack vector used as an entry point into your information system. The hacker will not want to use any brute force that will be detected when they finally set out to hack into your information system, and they will be pretty careful about every step of their attack plan.
They will also be coordinated with other information providers to ensure that they have all the vulnerabilities and security weaknesses in the software that you use before they can carry out the attack. The attack will not be immediate, and it can take months before they can orchestrate a masterpiece on your information system.
The hackers will be willing to wait out even as you keep upgrading software versions as they need to have as many alternatives when penetrating your system. They will need to know the kind of web applications you use and the software versions you use for these applications.
Studying Web Applications
If your company is a public-facing one, you most likely make use of web applications to give the users access to your information. This is a point of entry that is most prone to attacks, and if you are a company that is aware of security threats, you will ensure that your web applications are well secured. One of the most common mistakes in information systems is the web applications not having proper programming in place.
The programmers who write the code should anticipate the threat of the hackers and validate all the information and input that is getting into their client applications. Whenever a request is being sent to the webserver, it must have an authentication token that will uniquely identify the client from which the client originated. Without the security tokens, the hackers will be able to send their custom requests to the webserver and even delete or modify information stored on your back end and database.
The protocols you use for your communications will be studied closely by the hackers before making their way into your information system. Do you use the latest protocols for making requests, encrypting information, and moving information over the networks? Are you aware of the changes introduced in newer versions of the protocols you use for communication?
This is very useful information, and the hacker will always want to find out this information before they can carry out their attack. The hacker will also want to know what software you use to host your web applications and back end to ensure that they know the weaknesses they can take advantage of when they hack into your systems.
Understanding the architecture of your public-facing applications will also be critical to the hackers as they will need this information to plan their attack. They will want to know what kind of system you have to serve information and make your business accessible to the public. Do you require that users register to make use of your web application? If you do, then the hacker will be sure to create an account that they can use to probe further into your web applications.
However, this will not be before they have carefully analyzed your information systems and security software to ensure that they know all your weaknesses. The hackers will always work to find out the software and programming languages that have been used in creating the applications that you have made available to the public. This information will be used to find out the programming patterns of the code making up these applications.
With the information, they can even deconstruct the application that you have in your company to find out the actual source code in them. The hackers will need some of the source code that you use to modify the applications when they finally attack your information systems. The information that they can gather in the course of their research will be really useful to them, and they will be sure to obtain a lot of information.
There is no limit in the amount of information that a hacker should gather before carrying out an attack. The more information they can gather in their research, the more prepared they will be when carrying out the attack. More information means that they have more references which means that making connections when breaking into your information system will be a lot easier.
The use of the internet to study your applications will also reveal the nature of the servers that you use on the back end. The performance of the applications and the delay before the user can receive a response from the webserver will reveal the kind of web server that you use and what software you are using to host your information. The performance will also determine how hard it will be to break into your back-end servers and databases from the front end or web applications.
Once the hackers have started their hacking operations, there will be no time to obtain any further information. This is why the very first stage of a hacking attack, after identifying the target, is researching it. The research is useful and ensures that the other phases of the attack are carried out in quick succession to ensure that the target is caught unaware of the attack that is happening and that their information is walking out through the front door.
The hackers will dedicate themselves to obtaining as much information as possible about the company they intend to attack. This is the information that will be used to ensure that they carry out a successful attack.
Hacking is a systematic process, and scouting before the hack is a critical part of the attack. With the information, the hackers will ensure that they do not reveal any details about themselves. The hackers will ensure that they hide their traces and not establish a pattern that will lead to them.
The hackers will also try as much as they can to appear like an entity related to the company they intend to attack. The hackers will ensure that they can appear like the company or the many partners that it does business with. For instance, they will pretend to be customers looking for services to determine the security measures in place.
Gauging the company’s readiness will also be part of the hacking preparation, and the hackers will shake down the company systems to ensure that they have an idea of how well their information is protected. This will determine the steps they will undertake when they finally attack the systems and the kind of tools they will use for each of the stages of the hacking process.
The hackers will try as much as possible to learn all about the company they intend to attack to ensure that they do not have a noisy operation.
More Research, Better Preparation
Spending more time researching the company’s security will ensure that they do not spend a lot of time on the hacking itself. The hackers will try to spend as little time on the actual hack as compared to the time spent preparing for the attack. The hackers will ensure that they know all there is about your company before they proceed with attacking your systems and stealing your information.
The hack might only take a few hours, while the preparation would even have taken weeks or months. The hackers do this to increase their chances of success with the attack and better target their efforts on the actual hack itself. The hackers will not want to stay around in your digital space for too long as this is likely to cause them to be traced.
They will also try to use proxies in stages where they feel that they will be spending more time than they are comfortable with. The hacker will not make themselves feel comfortable in your system, and their attack will be a quick in and out.
When the hacker has enough information about the software applications that you use within your company, they will craft up better malware to target these applications. Knowing the operating systems that you use will enable them to penetrate your network security measures and do a lot more damage to your information systems.
Understanding the design of your network, for instance, will enable the hacker to be able to get past firewalls and other security measures that you might have put in place to deter their moves. The hacker will try to create a network similar to what you have in place to practice for the actual hack. Practicing with a virtual network will simulate the hack before it happens and prepare the hacker for the actual attack.
They will be able to get into your network much faster when they have already done a lot of practice with the same software and hardware systems that you use to keep your company connected to the rest of the internet. The use of the simulations will also be useful for ensuring that the hackers have a deeper understanding of the structure of your network.
Once they have gathered enough information about your company and the kind of security systems that you have in place, the hackers will try to replicate your company’s digital systems. They will install the same server applications that you use in your company.
They will also create a network that is exactly similar to what you have at your company, and once they have this in place, they will have plenty to go on. Using the replica of your information system, the hackers will break into your information systems by first practicing with the replica. The replica will be used to develop more effective exploits that will be used in the actual attack.
The hackers will try as much as possible to develop exploits for each stage of their hacking attack. Using the replica, they will also research all the possible vulnerabilities that are in the applications and systems that you use at your company.
These will be later used when the hackers are about to break into your information system. The vulnerabilities are very useful for developing a successful hack and will be used to ensure that the hackers can break into your information and security systems successfully.
Some of the information that the hackers will have gathered from your company will also be used to ensure that they can easily impersonate anyone in your company. The personal information from the employees will be used to create identities that can be used to gain trust and make privilege escalated attacks on your information systems.
The hackers will try to impersonate various people in upper management in your company. The information they have been gathering all along will be quite useful in making this possible. The hackers will try as much as they can to create real identities of the employees at your company. These identities will be used when they need to make changes that require higher authorities in your company.
Impersonation is used for various purposes. It can be used to gain additional information about the company. When one of the employees asks a member of the IT team about an upcoming change of software applications, the IT guy will be ready to provide the information since they believe that it is the actual employee that has inquired.
With fake identities, the hackers can even gain complete information about the company that is never revealed to the public. This information can be quite valuable once they begin the hacking attacks.
Additionally, the hackers will need to use the identities when they create an attack profile. It will be much easier to make it look like it was the company’s employees that carried the hack and modified information compared to creating a rumor about hackers from outside. With the use of identities from the company, the hackers will be able to escalate privilege more easily and use these identities to create private accounts on the information systems of the company they are targeting.
Hackers cannot attack your company before they have enough information to work with. As such, you should be sure that they are fully informed about your company when they eventually carry out a hacking attack on your information systems.
They will already have done a background check of all your applications and software systems before carrying out the actual hack. The information that they collect will be used to design a more deadly attack and increase the chances of success in their attacks. The use of reconnaissance ensures that the hackers know all about your company before they can make any move.
Studying Network Software
Hackers will want to know the software you use to secure your networks and the make and model of routers you use on your company’s internal network. This information will be very useful when they finally attempt your security systems. They will try as hard as possible to ensure that they know your internal and external protection systems.
Before the hackers every attempt to hack into your networks and information systems, they will ensure that they have obtained all the details and information about your system. This information will be very useful for hackers and will guide most of their decisions.
If they discover that you have put up a formidable protection and security system for your information, they will be discouraged and even give up on their attempts. When you are good at protecting your information system, the hacker will give up early in their research and move on to another target.
Most hacking incidences are not noticed until they have been completed because the hackers will spend more of their time researching and learning about your company than the actual hacking. As such, when they eventually get down to hacking your information system, they will be armed with enough information to break in and get out without setting off any alarms.
When they know the nature of the applications that you use in your company, the hackers will break in using the weaknesses that are prevalent in the software applications. The dark web market for hackers is a place they can easily obtain vulnerabilities and the latest exploits for various applications. The knowledge of the software applications that you use can be sued to ensure that they obtain the correct exploits and not have to do a lot of guesswork when they are carrying out the attack.
The hackers will also try as much as possible to ensure that they are well prepared with the right sort of tools before they can carry out the attack. A fully-equipped arsenal will ensure that they spend as little time as possible on the hack, and they will be able to increase the chances of success at getting in and out of your information system unnoticed.
When the hackers know the operating system that you use, they will build back doors and rootkits that can be installed into your computers. The rootkits are intended to create a connection that the hacker will use to access your computers when you are not aware. With a rootkit, the hacker can easily connect to your computer without leaving any traces.
There are many ways that hackers can use to get the rootkit application installed on your local computers, which we will look at in the course of this topic. Hackers have been known to have many nasty tools and applications in their arsenal, and the use of malware has been known to involve operating-system-specific applications.
The hacker will not install rootkits intended for Macintosh computers on Linux servers as the software will not be compatible with the operating system and will be rejected. Knowing your company’s internal structure and how your information systems have been designed from the inside out will be very valuable to hackers. They will need this information to craft up the best kind of attack.
The information that you have made available to the public can set you up for a hacker attack. When you have a lot of confidential information available on public websites, the hackers will have an easier time creating an attack plan for your information systems.
The hackers will easily determine the kind of company you are from the ease of obtaining information about your company. Whenever you post information to the public, ensure that it is of the nature that cannot bite you back. The information should be designed to be unusable by hackers and should not be more than necessary. Only disclose as much information as is necessary and do not delve into the details when you should not.
For instance, company announcements on your company blog about the latest changes and improvements that you are making to your information systems should not include version numbers and other revealing details. The information might be used against you, and as such, you should carefully monitor the information you reveal to the public.
The hacker is a public member and will have access to the same information as everyone else. The only difference is that they will be collecting a lot of information and will be sure to dig deeper whenever they have the opportunity.
Do not let hackers find out all about your company from simple searches on the internet. Be sure to obfuscate as many details as you can to ensure that even the first step of the hackers is as difficult as possible for them. The hackers should not be able to find out what kind of software you use at your company.
They should not be able to find out about the design of your network, and the network engineers and architects should be reminded to hide as many details as possible. Additionally, be sure to audit all your publicly available information from time to time to ensure that hackers do not have access to information that will place your company in a compromising position.
The hackers will always be on the lookout for new information, and when you do not give them a chance to learn about your internal organization, you will be able to keep your systems and information more secure. Additionally, the use of audits to censor publicly available information will be useful to ensure that your company’s private information remains private.
The confidentiality of all communications that you make and the policy you have regarding customer services should also include disclosing information. When customers seek support from your company, they should only get as much information as they require. Your customer support team should be trained to avoid giving out unnecessary details.
The hackers will always make use of the information that seems to have slipped out unknowingly. With this information, they will create an attack plan that will take advantage of all the weaknesses that your company has regarding the confidentiality and security of information.
Hackers are patient characters, and they do not make any move without getting properly informed. They will always be sure to do as much research as possible about your company before they can carry out the actual attack. With more information, they can design a more effective attack that will leave most of your systems crippled and unable to render services.
Additionally, the research reduces the amount of work that the hackers will have to do when planning an attack on your information systems. When they are fully aware of the internal structure of your network and what kind of computers you use, they will be able to craft up a more effective hacking attack that will be able to penetrate all the defenses that you have in place.
Your publicly available information should not compromise any security measures you have in place for your company information. Be sure to review the internet for all the information you have and carry out audits to improve policies and regulations within your company.
Remember, staying protected from hackers starts from the inside, and your employees should be aware of hackers listening and observing them. Ensure that they do not share company information on their private social media accounts and review all their communications to prevent any information leakage from your company.