How End-User Devices Get Hacked: 8 Easy Ways

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Whenever consumers and businesses get faced with the challenge of scammers, the most reliable strategies are usually not the most complicated ones. Individuals who hack systems seeking for data, funds or access do not require sophisticated techniques because the already standard tactics used in the past have worked consistently on their subjects. Two prominent hacker motivations include:  opportunistic and targeted.  Security experts use the two ways to differentiate cybercrimes claims that, an attacker requires access to any device that can be compromised and doesn’t care the identity of the victim.

Targeted attacks are unique because the attacker usually has a definite reason for seeking access to a specified device. Opportunistic attacks are usually financially motivated whereby threats are often directed to a particular person or are aimed to gain access to individual data. Attacks are usually platform-based and the method of delivery matters much than the payload.

According to Michele Fincher, a chief operating officer at Social-Engineer, it takes a lot of technical skills and knowledge to hack or gain access to a device. In most circumstances, the easiest way to obtain access to a device is by tricking the user into giving up valuable information about the device. It takes daily interests to stay up-to-date on all the current and latest hacking threats. Most users, however, are not able to do so hence they may not realize the various ways through which their devices might be at risk. Some of the simplest and most efficient means of hacking and other cybercriminal activities used to perform attacks to end-user devices are:

1. Phishing

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Phishing remains to be the easiest method to trick and compromise a user. Spear phishing targets particular users using a malicious attachment. An example of such an attachment is an official document that gets enabled with macros or a Powershell script that can overtake the system of the user.

Other technological experts also agree that phishing is the easiest way to capture natural targets by hackers and Cyber-Criminals. Phishing witnesses innocent users getting tricked to click on some links that get sent via email or text. This technique is known as SmShing. The cost of the attack is low and requires a small technical ability by the attacker. Phishing can capture many targets in one sweep.

2. Wireless hijacking or interception.

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Wireless hijacking occurs when the attacker inputs malicious payloads into a target victim’s device. It also happens when the cybercriminal compromises internet traffic on the end-user’s device and reissues a command to install malware. The process of hijacking is quite simple because the tools involved are many and readily available.

An example is a “wifi pineapple” which can cut into the end-user’s device through a wireless attack. The attacker uses this tool to make the end user disconnect from the wifi network and connect to a similar one as the threat actor. This trick would then allow the attacker to input a malicious code to the end user’s device. However, wireless hijacking can only take place in close physical proximities but is not possible across broad geographical regions.

3. SmShing

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SmShing is one of the two largest device hacking vectors, besides Phishing. Cell phones that allow side-loading of apps pose a threat of attack to the users. SmShing attacks require end-users to click on malicious links that get sent through emails or texts.

One common risk to SmShing is at the corporate level the BYOD policy that involves end-users carrying their mobile phones to their workplaces. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones being available to many institutions are risky in the case whereby there are no restrictions on accessing the company email on such devices. This BYOD policy increases the organizational risk whereby one successful end-user attack can enable the attacker to bring down an entire corporate business.

4. Impersonation

The threat of impersonation is used in most cases to change and reset passwords, change control of phone numbers and get over other security policies. For example, an attacker may target a particular carrier to hijack a cell phone number. The attacker can then compromise the two-factor authentication messages or tokens. This is a straightforward way of interception and does not require the cybercriminal to have a high technical skill or ability.

If the attacker can manage to get VPN credentials to a business network through a phone call, he or she does not require hacking any device at all. Instead, he can probably log in as a legal user and make away with very crucial information. Individuals pretending to be legal entities conduct most of the end-user attacks. Attackers with just a little amount of open source intelligence gathering can access adequate information to pose like a boss, a bank, a friend or a customer who has a regular request. Most people put themselves at a risk of impersonation by carelessly sharing their private or personal details without questioning.

5. Physical possession

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Gaining physical access to someone else’s property changes to control and ownership of that particular property completely. An attacker can, in most instances, gain access to a stolen smartphone or any other electronic device, with adequate time, skills, and motivation. Attacks through physical access can also be conducted using a malicious USB drive, boot attacks, stolen hard drives, or a keylogger.

Mobile devices can be tough to crack especially when they get programmed with the correct security configurations. An example is a decision by Apple corporation to upgrade the iPhone to a six-digit passcode, and a forceful lockout after attempting to log in for too many times. These two security set-ups protect the iPhone devices from potential attackers.

6. Fake downloads

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This strategy depends on human manipulation to download malware and damage devices. This attack does not require much expertise on the attacker’s side for success. The procedure of fake downloads is such that the attacker picks a tool that is on demand and gets downloaded most frequently. The attacker then inputs something else that people will first have to download before accessing the item. The particular thing established by the attacker can be any form of malware.

Malvertising is another efficient method to trick end-users through an opportunistic attack to as many people as possible. Threat actors only require to pay the running of a fake advertisement and eventually capture an individual who is not keen.

7. Unpatched vulnerabilities

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These are the simplest paths for cybercriminals to conduct attacks. Threat actors often take advantage of unpatched flaws by going through the internet searching for weaknesses or using specific places to gain entry. Openly recognized exploits enable attackers to gain access to vulnerable software and infect the host.

8. Client-side exploits

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These attacks involve payloads that get sent through Javascript, which may get input via Tor proxies, to typo-squatting attacks that take malicious applets or flash exploits when an individual wrongly types a website address. These attacks have progressively become more complicated and challenging because browser security has improved.  For example, the attack is difficult to perform on Chrome because it frequently does updates automatically, while it is easy on Microsoft Edge or Firefox.

Developing these exploits is very difficult because most developers of software and browsers have improved to tougher and hard to break techniques. However, in case of availability of an unpatched issue or any other vulnerability, it becomes effortless for attackers to take advantage of that.

CONCLUSION

Hackers and other cybercriminals scam end user’s devices by simply identifying a vulnerability in either the network, the device or the end users themselves. Some of the ways used by the threat actors to perform malicious attacks are complex while others require minimal technical ability. The attackers employ these skills to manipulate vulnerabilities in the end user’s device or network then perform malicious attacks and malware installations.

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