Cybercriminals are more than interested in breaking into your digital accounts. Whether it be for snooping, identity theft, or fraud, you owe it to yourself to remain on your guard and make their job difficult.
Hackers use automated tools to scan for vulnerabilities. Thus, you should also advance your knowledge and find new ways to fortify your cyber defenses.
The first part of mounting a solid defense is knowing what threats to your login credentials you should be wary of:
A phishing attack is not as much technically demanding to execute. It focuses on a psychological level.
In other words, it’s a method of tricking you into revealing your password to the attacker without them having to do any traditional hacking.
It does, however, involve a great deal of convincing, pretending, and social engineering.
It begins with criminals sending you an email. Its sender’s ID is spoofed or otherwise manipulated to appear to be coming from someone else. They also assume a voice of authority, for example, pretend to be your manager or the account administrator. Then the perpetrators make an urgent demand that involves asking for your account details.
Another variation of this is to lure you into visiting a fraudulent login form. It can use the same pretenses that something is wrong with your account or that you need to update information.
In reality, the login form is nothing more than an imitation of a legitimate site. While most of such forms resemble the real thing, the URL of the landing page tends to be a dead giveaway. If you proceed to input your login information, you send it straight into the hacker’s arms.
2. Dictionary attack
A dictionary attack is when someone tries to access your account without your permission by guessing one’s way through.
Of course, they use various hacking tools to succeed. These are pre-loaded with commonly used word strings and combinations.
For instance, if your password is “breadcrumb,” this cyber attack has more than a fair shot at cracking it.
Furthermore, unlike the brute force, hackers optimize a dictionary attack. It doesn’t attempt every possible character combination in existence; it tries only words that people tend to use as their password. Thus, it takes much less time to cycle through all the most likely possibilities.
The good news is that if you keep your password hard to guess and non-obvious, a dictionary attack will not succeed.
3. Brute force
In a brute force attack, a hacker goes through all the possible character combinations until one of them happens to be the correct password.
Brute force attacks are much slower and less optimized than dictionary attacks, so they take more time. But if your password is a short string, for example, “1234”, this approach will crack it in no time.
The good news is that you can do a lot on your end to prevent brute force attacks. Favoring longer passwords rather than shorter ones should be the first step.
If you’re a WordPress user who’s trying to protect the admin account, there are plugins available that limit the maximum login attempts per hour. After they reach the maximum, plugins block further login attempts from the same IP for a while. It is a great way to keep brute force attacks at bay.
How to Protect Your Credentials?
Vigilance is the key to fending off phishing attacks. Always double-check who sent you the email and don’t follow the instructions you get blindly.
Hint: A real administrator would never ask for your password. Even if they wanted to access your account, they could do so without knowing your login credentials.
And if the email claims to be from your boss, why not ask them in-person to confirm? Your boss will never hold it against you.
To stay safe from brute force and dictionary attacks, educate yourself on how to create a robust password.
Long story short, it should be a varied mix of numbers, characters, and special symbols. The longer, the better. To avoid doing the tedious work yourself, get a password manager to generate the passwords for you.
As an extra measure of defense, make use of 2FA tools such as a biometric fingerprint (you can read more about it here) or SMS confirmation. It’s especially crucial to use 2FA on your essential accounts, such as email and payment platforms.
And don’t forget to activate it on your apps too. You can protect your password manager much better if you enable biometric fingerprint or facial recognition authentication.
If you activate the former, a hacker would have to force your finger onto the scanner to get through. Getting your password from a brute force or dictionary attack wouldn’t be enough.
Although basic, these cybersecurity principles go a long way toward protecting your accounts. Since they’re not hard to implement either, you have no excuse not to apply what you’ve learned.