evil looking hacker with cyber face

Everything you need to know about common hacking methods.

I often tell you that a VPN is the best way of securing your online life. A VPN keeps your information safe while your online and prevents malware from being installed on your devices. Even so, I always recommend having a stand-alone antivirus program and password manager on all your devices.

People often wonder how secure VPN's really are. In this in-depth article I will describe common hacking methods and how a VPN deals with those specific threats. The first thing you should know is that any device that can connect to the Internet can get hacked. This includes things like smart fridges, smart TV’s, smartwatches and even your smart Hoover. Then there's the matter of hackers. How long would it take to hack my device and how much knowledge do they need to have? Is a VPN a reliable enough deterrent for potential hacker? The answer to these questions is a VPN will keep you safe online 99% of the time. A VPN will completely block a hacker in some scenarios and provide strong enough protection in other circumstances.

Can my computer be hacked if I'm using a VPN?

There are many methods a hacker can use to get access to your data. Below we will look at some specific hacking techniques and if or how a VPN can protect you from these hacks.

Fake Wi-fi hotspots

Also, sometimes known as Fake Wireless Access Point or FWAP attacks. This is one of the easiest hacking techniques to carry out and uses a fake wireless hotspot. The hacker would set up a router in or near to a public area, bar or restaurant, and establish a free open connection. 

Who doesn't love free Wi-fi? Like most public Wi-fi, you never need to enter a password before connecting to these networks. Most members of the public will just connect to this free public Wi-fi without question. Devices that connect to any fake network immediately become vulnerable to malware injection, the malware gets injected to your mobile device, and it begins its task of transmitting your data. This malware can sometimes infect other devices that come into contact with it. One thing to note here is it doesn't even need to be a fake hotspot, this can happen on any unsecured Wi-fi. Read our article on the dangers of public Wi-fi here.

Will VPN protect you from fake Wi-Fi hotspots?

A VPN provides absolute protection against any attempted hacks on fake Wi-fi hotspots and indeed any unsecured free public Wi-fi. The 256-bit encryption used by the CyberGhost VPN encrypts your data and makes it unobtainable over public Wi-fi and fake Wi-fi hotspots alike. To learn more about the dangers of public Wi-fi click here.

Malicious ads online

Sometimes called bait and switch hacks, you and I both know every time you go online; we see many ads. Some of these ads are malicious and the websites on the other side they connect to will contain malware that automatically injects your system what different types of tracking software. 

Does a VPN protect you from bait and switch? 

In most cases, any VPN can block against these kinds of attacks. In addition, some VPN such as CyberGhost provide network level blocking and block access to malicious websites.

Malicious Browser Invasions

This kind of attack you'll be familiar with when you enter a website that has multiple pop-ups all around the screen. These pop-ups will say things like virus detected and try to force you to download a software or contact a phone number to get rid of this “virus”.

These kinds of attacks target people who won't be aware that they're fake ads and believe they are receiving the information from windows or even their antivirus software.

Will a VPN protect me from a malicious browser invasion?

A VPN won't allow this attack at all. The way a VPN works is contrary to the very methods used by this attack, and the attack simply would not work against a VPN.

Cookie Theft

Most people know about cookies and how cookies are being sent to your browser all the time to record your site preferences and other data. If you'd like to learn more, read our guide about cookies here. Cookies are tiny lightweight files sent to your browser by websites you visit. They are a method to identify you, advertise to you, and identify your preferences for a more personalized website experience on your next visit.

If a hacker intercepts your cookies, they can read your personal information and get your credentials and login details for your social media, online shopping websites or worse. Every time you connect to a website without using a VPN, you're giving away a little piece of your data and your privacy.

Will a VPN protect me from cookie theft?

When you're connected to a VPN, your Internet traffic travels via the VPN server, through an encrypted tunnel. When a cookie gets sent to you by a website your VPN makes sure it serves these cookies in the correct way, keeping you safe 100% of the time against cookie theft.

Reusing the same credentials

When you hear about data breaches on specific websites which affect millions of different users, these data breaches are a method of attacking websites with weaker security to get usernames and passwords and other personal info.

Unfortunately, many people will use the same login information and the same email address and worst of all the same passwords for many websites. If you're using the same login credentials and a less secure website gets hacked, the hackers could easily use that information to hack your bank account, social media, or any other platform.

Will my VPN protect me from credential reuse?

NordPass has one master password, which you must remember after that it takes care of all the rest. Read our guide to online security here and if you're interested in NordPass, you can read our NordPass review here. 

A VPN doesn't help you with your passwords, in this case we recommend using NordPass password manager, which will generate unique strong passwords for every website you sign up to.

Click jacking and UI Redress

This hacking targets a specific website with the goal of creating a frame around the website when you visit it. In simple terms, the hacker will add an overlay with buttons or links which seem to be part of the original website but are not.

This is a very sophisticated attack that is designed to steal your clicks, which is why it's called click jacking. A worrying aspect of click jacking is it can activate your camera or microphone. In other cases, it will redirect you to fake pages designed to look like the original website asking for your login information.

Will a VPN protect me from click jacking? 

A VPN will protect you from click jacking, but in this case, it is not every VPN that can do this, and it would require additional features like anti malware tools or built in ad blockers.  However, CyberGhost will protect you from these kinds of attacks and keeps a vast database of compromised websites preventing you from accidentally accessing these domains.

IoT Malicious Attacks

Smart devices in smart homes are relatively easy to hack if a hacker gains access to your smart fridge, and that smart fridge is connected to your Wi-fi network you're in trouble.

Will a VPN protect me from IoT Malicious Attacks?

I always recommend using the most secure routers available to you and, if possible, using a VPN on your router. When you have your router configured to use a VPN, any smart device that connects to that router will be protected by the VPN.

Shadowy figure behind green glass panel etched in code

DDoS Attacks

Here's a hacking you will have heard of before. DDoS attacks are mostly aimed at implanting bots on your device, these bots then in unison send fraudulent or malicious data requests to servers and websites. When all these requests happen simultaneously, it can crash the destination server. DDoS attacks are used for sabotage and ransom attacks.

DDoS attacks affect the infected device in several ways and will make your system run slower as they use up a lot of system resources. In addition, the DDoS attack takes up a lot of your bandwidth, which will throttle your Internet speed. Worse, though, these bots are extremely difficult to find or identify and even more difficult to remove.

Will a VPN protect me from DDoS attacks?

Again, this depends on which VPN and is that VPN capable of resisting DDoS attacks.  Only some VPNs have built in protection against botnet commands. These VPNs then isolate any bot they discover; however, you'll still need an antivirus program to remove this malware. 

Phishing Attempts

Phishing is when you receive an email convincing enough to persuade you to comply with what the email request you to do. This can take the form of fake notification from your bank or the Apple store showing that there's been a hack attempt and asking you to log into your account. You will be directed to a fake website or phone number. Then the person on the phone or the website will try to get your real login credentials. Either by asking you to fill them in directly on the website or by injecting malware.

Can a VPN Protect me from phishing? 

This is tricky to answer because it's reliant on common sense first and foremost. The best advice I could give you here is don't reply to unusual messages. If you receive an email it and seems to be from your bank, don't fill out any forms or provide your login information. Instead, call your bank on the telephone and query if this is legit or not.

Even just Google the request you received, like “Apple store login email” this will often show you whether it's fraudulent, because others will have posted about it. Some VPNs can scan and check if a link is fraudulent or not and prevent you from visiting the malicious websites behind them.

Man in The Middle Attacks

Hackers are always trying to intercept your online communications; this gets done by hacking into Wi-fi networks. Read our guide to the dangers of public Wi-Fi here. You should always use a VPN on your mobile device to make sure you're always secure when connected to open and public Wi-fi networks.

When a public Wi-fi hotspot gets hacked, the hacker can watch everything anyone connected does online and even record it. They can easily read your messages and your sensitive information; cybercriminals are doing this with the goal of getting access to your financial information and emptying your bank accounts or stealing your identity.

Will a VPN protect me from a man in the middle attack?

A VPN cannot be hacked in this way. If by some remote chance a hacker gained access to this information, it would be encrypted and of no use to them whatsoever.

DNS Spoofing

When you put a website URL into the browser address bar, you first get connected to a DNS server and then this DNS server redirects you to the correct address.  Now consider if a hacker had access to this DNS server, they could redirect you to a malicious or fake website without your knowledge. It's obvious how dangerous this will be, and many online nasties will await you.

Will my VPN prevent DNS spoofing? 

When you connect to a VPN, you're using that VPN provider's DNS server. This means it's impossible for a hacker to get access to that server, and they cannot DNS spoof you.

If I use a VPN can I be hacked?

As you've read above a good VPN is an effective tool for preventing many hacking methods. There are however some hacking techniques that a VPN will not protect you from, such as.

A Top-Level Server Breach: 

Top level server breaches can only be fixed directly by the affected server's support team. These top-level server breaches will allow the injection of malware into the affected servers.

SQL Injection: 

The more sophisticated hackers may use SQL programming language to add code to an unsecured website. You then visit said website revealing your login credentials and other information that this website requests. A VPN would be ineffective against this attack as it occurs remotely and not from your device. 

Cross-Site Scripting: 

Most websites would not rely on a single server, but more of a group of servers in many locations. This is how they offer faster loading speeds and a more personalized experience. There are many transmissions between these servers.

If a hacker intercepts any of these transmissions, they will try to inject scripts for a malicious purpose. These kinds of issues can only be resolved by I.T professionals, maintaining and inspecting the servers regularly. Whereas a VPN can protect you online, cannot protect you from this threat.

Can a VPN be hacked?

The last thing you might wonder is can they hack my VPN? The industry standard encryption for many premium VPNs is AES-256 encryption or above. This AES-256 is the same strength used by the military banks and government agencies. It would take years of constant effort and a skilled hacker to bypass this encryption. Especially when so many people are not using a VPN on their devices and these people are easier targets.  Hackers are lazy and always want to attack the easiest target for the fast route to the money.

Conclusion

A VPN will keep you safe and secure from most online hacking attempts. Even if a hacker got hold of your information, it would be encrypted and useless to them. Hackers always target the easiest and quickest types of hacking and when they see you using a VPN they just move on to the next and easier target. If you want to try CyberGhost VPN risk free for 30-days click here.

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