If movies are to be believed, hackers can get access to your personal information and login credentials by furiously and continuously typing lines of machine language codes under the intense pressure of getting caught. In real life though, hackers get access to their victims’ passwords without their knowledge simply because their victims were a wee bit careless. This article aims to explain how.

From the book Hackers Exposed: Discover the secret world of cybercrime (2019)

1 Default Passwords

The most common password in the world is still “123456”, followed by “password”. This has been the case for years now. Using the most common passwords like “111111”, “123123”, “password1”, “!@#$%^&*” and even “iloveyou” puts you at unnecessary risk since most hackers will try to brute access your accounts using these passwords first.

Your Wi-Fi router is another example. Out of the box, your Wi-Fi router comes with a default username and password. These defaults are usually the same across the same model or the same brand of router. It’s easy enough for anybody on your network to figure out how to access your router if it’s on default. It doesn’t take a genius to do this.

It’s advisable to change these credentials to more secure ones so that hackers don’t get administrative access to your router setup. It’s advisable to use hard-to-guess passwords for important accounts such as social media accounts and online banking accounts as well.

2 Public Wi-Fi Channels

There is a way for hackers to track finger movements on a mobile phone by studying the interference in the radio signals caused by typing, clicking and covering the keystrokes made on a victim’s phone.

Different areas of your touchscreen phone records different levels of interference in the radio signals. The hackers study this interference by offering some sort of test or survey that helps them pinpoint exactly where your keyboard is and what type of keyboard you’re using.

The hacker doesn’t even have to be the source of the public hotspot itself. The attack may come from anyone as long as they’re in the same public network as you.

This is the main reason you should never access your online bank accounts and social media accounts using public and open Wi-Fi channels. However, if you really need internet connection and only a public Wi-Fi is available, make sure you use a VPN (virtual private network) to secure your connection and make it near impossible for attackers to track your activities.

3 Malware

A malware is any type of software that offers a type of service but does malicious activities once it’s installed on your device. It can sometimes do what it offers, but it does more harm than good to both your device and your privacy.

There are malware programs that can pry on your webcam and record your activities. There are malware programs known as key loggers that can track your keystrokes, gaining access to your passwords, website history, online conversations and many other personal data. Some malware programs can even hijack your computer and control them remotely.

To protect yourself from malware, install an anti-virus program, update its virus database regularly and refrain from turning this program off. Doing this will prevent you from downloading and installing any program that can put your device at risk.

4 Account Linking

If you’ve linked any of your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to any other, third-party websites, none of these social media platforms are responsible for how the third-party websites handle your data. After all, it was you who linked the accounts, and it was you who gave the permission.

Every time you link a social media account to any third-party app or website, there will be a list of all the information you’re agreeing to provide. This most commonly include your public profile. If your birthday, hometown, middle name, age and any other info are set on public, you’re basically giving all this information away. Review this list before you agree to anything.

Always be careful about who you trust with your data. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to forego my privacy (or any fraction of it) in exchange for using this application?”

5 OS Upgrades and Updates

OS updates are a manufacturer’s way of handing out important security updates for your device. In some cases, updates will address bugs and vulnerabilities that could put your device and personal files at risk. Firewalls are like built-in anti-virus programs that you should utilize to lessen the risk of hacks and security breaches.

You also might want to let go of discontinued OS versions because manufacturers will not be held responsible for any breach that occurs if you’re using a discontinued OS. If possible, upgrade your OS to the most stable or the newest version.

6 Phishing Sites and Emails

Consumers are becoming less gullible and phishing scams have been on a steady decline since 2015. Some still fall for them though.

Phishing scammers will usually offer a big return in exchange for a small, “temporary” deposit from the would-be victim. Victims who fall for this scam will then willingly give their money in the hopes that the person on the other end will push through with their part of the bargain. Of course, once the money is deposited or sent through whatever channel, the victims will never hear from the other person again.

Some phishing sites pose as official sites. They copy the official websites to the last pixel. The giveaway is that they ask for the username, the password, and all other personal information as if the victim’s registering to the site instead of just logging into it. The URLs may be close to each other too, as the phishing site’s URL is commonly a misspelt version of the original URL.

More than half of all online users use the same password or a slight variation of the same password for almost all of their accounts online. Hackers may use tools that will try to access accounts across thousands of sites until eventually, some get in. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a phishing scam, immediately change your passwords to ALL your accounts. Otherwise, you can be at risk of mass theft.