Digital Vulnerability: 3 hacking techniques that you need to watch out for

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How vulnerable are you in today’s digital world? That’s the question we're asking this week to learn more about the dangers of online hacking and tips to prevent you from becoming a victim.

On Thursday, WGN Morning News anchors were joined by Chris Hadnagy, the chief executive officer and founder of Social Engineer Inc. Hadnagy talked about his specialty in his hacking expertise, called “social engineering” which is a way of attacking a network by exploiting human weaknesses rather than using code or malware.

Most of these exploits are subtle, for example: an insurance company that only requires a social security number to access the customer’s policy details, or a cable company giving out a customer’s address over the phone without confirming the caller with their PIN number.

Here’s another scary thought about social engineering: It’s easy and anyone can do it. Hadnagy explains all a person needs is a phone, Google and some amateur acting skills to start hacking.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves from hackers? During the interview Hadnagy jokingly suggested, “to get rid of your computer,” but in all seriousness people should think critically before acting on what they're being asked to do and make sure it seems realistic.

“Would your bank really email you for your password? Would your cable company or phone company really email you a coupon for $500 off?” Hadnagy said. “If you think it’s true, instead of taking the action like clicking or giving the information over the call that came to you, go to the legitimate website, call that company back. Take actions that may take a little bit longer out of your life, but could save you a lot of hassle.”

Other popular hacking techniques, according to Hadnagy:

  • Phishing emails – An email made to make it look like it’s legitimate, but it actually has malicious purposes. It’s on the rise because it’s cheap and easy for an attacker to use. And it works.
  • Geo Location – Every time you tweet, post to Facebook or post a picture from your phone and you have your geo-location turned on, your post will embed your exact location inside your photo or post. An attacker can take those locations and track you by making a map of where you go and potentially find out where you live.
  • Spear Vishing – Another hacking technique on the rise, that’s targeted towards a specific individual by receiving a specific email from a hacker to access the target’s personal information, including financial and corporate information.