Many folks think hackers are geniuses who work technical magic to break into computers. They are wrong. From the secret labs of the PLA Unit 6138 in Shanghai, China, to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, to the Russian foreign intelligence office in Moscow, a single method is used to start almost every attack: phishing. Phishing is a hacker term for an email message that tricks the reader into allowing an invader into their computer system.
Entering a computer by cracking a password or slipping through a gap in the system’s security is possible, but it’s hard and risky, like changing house wiring without turning off the breakers. It takes time and skill, two resources that are always in short supply.
Phishing is much easier and almost everyone has the skills to do a little phishing if they get an aggressive or criminal itch.
Here’s a method that works often:
- Open up an email account on a free email service with a fake name.
- Use the fake account to send an email asking for the username and password to someone’s bank account.
- Tell them a tale:
- you’re from the bank and you need to fix something.
- Or tell an older person that you are their grandchild and you want to help them.
Use your imagination. Think up something good. You’ll fail most of the time. But keep trying. Eventually you’ll find someone gullible at an unguarded moment.
Other phishing techniques are a little more difficult, but still easier than breaking in. Email attachments and hyperlinks can be used to secretly run little programs on your computer that invite attackers in.
But, in all seriousness, don’t try any of this. It’s against the law and odds are you will end up with in jail with your computer confiscated. I’m not telling you these tricks to encourage you to try them, but now that you know how it’s done, you can protect yourself.
- Never reveal your credentials, like account usernames and passwords, in reply to an email. A legitimate service will never ask for credentials in an email.
- Never open an email attachment unless you are absolutely certain of the source.
- And don’t click on links in email unless you know how to check them for safety.
You still could be hacked, but by following these simple rules, you have entered the ranks of folks who are harder to hack.
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