Geraldine Strawbridge

Geraldine Strawbridge is a graduate from the University of Glasgow. As the Editor of Cyber Radio, Geraldine is focused on delivering the latest cyber security news whilst making cyber security more relatable to people in their everyday lives.

Think Like a Hacker

There’s no denying that cyber-crime is getting worse, you only have to glance at the headlines to read about the latest company that has fallen victim to the hackers. The rise in cyber-crime is unprecedented and shows no sign of slowing down as cyber criminals find new and inventive ways to steal our data and extort money.

Our digital landscape is changing rapidly, and this greater connectivity directly correlates to a greater opportunity for hackers to launch highly targeted and personalised attacks.

Scammers are becoming more sophisticated in how they target us and are increasingly using different forms of Social Engineering to trick us into handing over sensitive information. Social Engineering attacks come in many different forms but the common thread running through them all is their exploitation of human behaviour.

Attacks are often multi-pronged with objectives ranging from cyber warfare to corporate espionage and the delivery of ransomware.

Ransomware attacks have continued to take cyber-crime to a whole new level.  According to Cyber Security Ventures, Global ransomware damage costs are predicted to exceed £20 billion in the next two or three years and by 2019 somewhere in the world will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds.

Cyber-attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware attack which infected over 400,000 machines in 150 countries, and the announcement from Equifax that over 100 million people had their private data leaked, demonstrated just how crippling and far reaching these attacks can be.

The World Economic Forum has ranked cyber-crime as among the top three risks the world will face this year and has urged people to prepare for sudden and dramatic disruptions caused by this type of crime.

What can be done to combat this rise in cyber-crime and prevent attacks?

Quite simply, you need to think like a hacker! If organisations want to reduce their risk of external hacking attempts, they need to adopt the mindset of a hacker.

Despite their illegal activities, hackers have a thorough understanding of computer networks, systems and online behaviour. By exploring these complex systems through a hacker’s eyes, organisations can identify weaknesses and threats, and begin to imagine how hackers might attack their business.

Once there is a better understanding of the system’s vulnerabilities, changes can be made to strengthen cyber security defences against this type of crime.

The first step is looking at the hacker’s motivation for attacking your business:

  • –              What do they hope to gain?
  • –              Are they specifically targeting your organisation or is it an opportunistic crime?
  • –              Are there system vulnerabilities?
  • –              How will the hackers attack?
  • –              When will they attack?

Hackers will usually carry out a full reconnaissance of a business before launching an attack. The first stage is called Footprinting. Hackers will want to find out as much information as they can about your business. This could be found out publicly through your website, social media channels or by going online.

The next stage will involve scanning your network for any vulnerabilities or open doors to your site. The hackers will then try and obtain usernames, information on user groups, file shares, and services offered by the network hosts. Once the hacker has obtained all this information they will then launch a targeted hacking attempt of your system.

Depending on the objective, the hacker will then steal sensitive data, encrypt files or deliver ransomware. Before exiting the system, the hacker will leave a back door to ensure future access. The back door is a secret program that bypasses normal security features on the system and can also be used to turn the machine into a denial-of-service-attack (DDoS) or to send spam email.


How can I protect my business?

Armed with this information on how a hacker researches and launches an attack, you can look at areas of your business that need strengthened and protected.

The first step in protecting your business is:

  1. Develop an Effective Security Strategy

Security should be built into the culture of your organisation to ensure that every employee within the company understands the importance of cyber security and the far-reaching impact that a data breach can have. Unfortunately, human error remains the number one cause of a cyber-attack and hackers are only too willing to take advantage of this lack of cyber security awareness to launch a targeted attack.  The development of a comprehensive security strategy will protect sensitive data, reduce threats and ensure the reputation of an organisation remains intact.

  1. Enhance Security Awareness

Effective security awareness training is essential in training your employees to identify and respond appropriately to the growing range of cyber security threats. All employees, at every level of the organisation should receive this training to ensure they are armed with the skills required to identify an attack. Cyber security awareness training should be engaging and informative to ensure that staff understand what is required of them and the importance of the role they play in safeguarding the organisations sensitive data.

  1. Keep Defensive Practices up to Date

Security policies could be rendered useless organisations have a thorough and continual way of monitoring cyber security compliance. The security landscape is constantly shifting and evolving so it is vital that employees are continually trained to ensure they can respond appropriately to the most up to date security threats.

Staying One Step Ahead of the Hackers

Despite the increasing volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks, organisations can foster a better culture of cyber security awareness by taking steps to think like a hacker. Responding effectively to today’s cyber threats means putting the data you are protecting at the forefront of your security strategy and adopting a proactive approach.

To find out how MetaCompliance can help protect your organisation from cyber-crime, click here