Alex Grant

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Understanding SSL and Its Importance in 2019

Understanding SSL and Its Importance in 2019

An introduction to SSL and why your website should use this important security feature

Website security has become a hot topic for businesses and consumers alike in recent years. High profile breaches and sensitive information data losses have caused PR nightmares for big names like Equifax, and the damage to their trustworthiness in the eyes of the general public will take years to repair, if ever. It goes without saying that avoiding these types of breaches and security issues is incredibly important if you have a website, especially one that collects customer data, processes online transactions, accepts payments, and shares private messages.

SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, is the standard for website security today. Most people interact with websites using an SSL connection on a daily basis and don’t even know it. The simple, tried, tested, and true solution is easy for website owners to implement, and doesn’t change or alter the end user experience.

Of course, while SSL may be simple to use, the technology behind it is anything but. It’s important for you to understand the features, benefits, and potential drawbacks of implementing SSL on your web server before you proceed with the process. This article will help you gain a basic understanding of SSL, as well as why you need to it include it as part of your website’s security technology, and how to move forward with implementation.

What is SSL?

Chances are, if you have done any browsing online today, you have used a website with SSL and you may not even have realized it. The simplest way to tell if a website is using SSL is to look at the address bar. Every website address begins with either “http://” or “https://” and, as you may have been able to guess, that little “s” indicates that the website is using SSL. There is no need for someone visiting the website to do anything to initiate SSL – it just happens.

But what does that little “s” in the address bar actually mean?

Simply put, it means that the data that you are submitting and sharing with the website you are visiting is encrypted and secure. That’s a very important distinction, especially if you are sharing sensitive information like you would on your bank’s website or while purchasing an item through an online store.

When data is encrypted through an SSL protocol, it means that only you and the website owner can read the information. Hackers that are monitoring open wi-fi networks, for example, will not be able to see if you’re submitting a password, credit card number, or private message. In other words, that little “s” near the beginning of a website’s address is a big deal if you’re at all concerned about your privacy online. If you’re operating your own website or multiple domains, people will feel more confident when it comes to sharing information with you if you use SSL. If you don’t use SSL, people may look elsewhere since they won’t feel as though their visit is a secure session.  

2 other ways you can tell if a website is secure are if there’s a green address bar and/or a padlock icon.  And newer versions of popular web browsers like Google Chrome now tell people when a domain name isn’t secure. In fact, a warning message pops up that specifically states that the site they are about to visit is not secure. In order to proceed, people must confirm that they understand they are visiting an unsecure website and wish to proceed anyway. Even if someone has no idea what SSL is and what it does, that warning message can be enough to scare them away and potentially prevent them from ever returning. For you as a website owner, that means lost clicks, lost revenue, and potentially even a damaged reputation.

There are three different types of SSL certificates that you can get depending on your needs and the size of your business. Domain Validation is the first, and most common, type for small businesses. Essentially, this type of certificate just verifies that the website owner is the actual owner on record according to WHOIS information. The simplicity of this certificate may not be enough for high-volume websites but could be the perfect solution for blogs or smaller e-commerce stores. It’s also very easy to obtain this type of certificate, and may even be included in your web hosting plan.

Organization Validated SSL is the second type of certificate available. This certificate goes beyond a basic check of searching WHOIS databases and extends to government databases. What this ultimately does is provide greater assurances to customers and visitors that you are, in fact, the owner of the website and that has been verified with available records. People visiting your website will also be able to hover over the Trust logo site seal and see more information about your organization that they can verify with the information they already have. For security-conscious visitors, this may be the level of SSL required if they plan to do business with you.

Finally, there is EV SSL. This certificate takes longer to obtain and costs more money but offers visitors a very clear indication that the website is safe and secure. The green address bar is the main indicator that a site is using EV SSL and this is typically what you would find on the website of a major corporation or government agency. Verification is done to ensure the business exists physically, and documentation about the business must be provided. For most small to medium sized businesses, this might be an unnecessary level of security and cost but it is good to be aware of all SSL options available.

Why is SSL needed on your website?

Now that you understand what SSL does, it’s important to understand why it’s needed. At its most basic level, SSL is necessary to prevent hackers from monitoring the information your visitors send you, as well as the information you send back to your website’s visitors. Without SSL, customer credit card information could be stolen, passwords could be compromised, and personal information could be leaked.

While this would not directly be your fault, who do you think the average user will blame if their credit card is compromised after shopping on your website?

SSL is about more than just security for website owners, though. While its basic function is to encrypt data and provide that confidence to people visiting the website, it can also have a huge impact on your search engine results. Since search engines like Google have identified SSL as an important feature for websites to have, they put a significant emphasis on promoting websites with SSL in their search results. After all, Google wants to be a trusted search engine much like you want to have a trusted website.

The algorithms that search engines use are based on proprietary information that is not available to the public. We do know, however, that websites using SSL are more likely to appear near the top of Google’s search results. This means that by simply introducing a basic security feature, you could also improve your search engine rankings. And the importance of ranking highly on search engines can’t be understated. In fact, as many as 92% of search engine users click on results they see on the first page.

This is especially important if you’re trying to build a popular website that ranks highly on Google. Many website owners put a tremendous amount of effort into using the right keywords, building effective content, and designing eye-catching modern websites in hopes of organically ranking in one of the coveted top 3 spots on Google. Unfortunately, all of that hard work, time, and money will be a complete waste if your website security is not up to Google’s standards. In this context, that means integrating SSL into your website.

Is SSL available for phones as well?

One of the most common questions about SSL is how it integrates with mobile devices. After all, about half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website doesn’t consider these potential visitors, then you could potentially alienate an awful lot of people.

The good news is that SSL certificate are valid for both desktop and mobile devices. By integrating SSL into your website, you are ensuring that both desktop and mobile users enjoy an industry standard of Internet security while browsing.

Some web hosting providers have had challenges in the past with SSL certificates not working properly on mobile devices. In situations like this, visitors see a message that says the website is not secure. Thankfully, this can usually be fixed quickly simply by contacting your hosting provider. Most reputable providers have already stepped up to address this challenge so that it’s not longer an issue.  If you want to be sure that your SSL certificate is working on mobile, you can quickly and easily perform an SSL check using any number of free services available online.

How to get an SSL certificate

There are several ways to get an SSL certificate based on your unique needs. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure that your web hosting provider includes SSL as a feature. This is one of the most common ways for small businesses and e-commerce stores to acquire and activate an SSL certificate. If your web host does not provide SSL certificates as part of your baseline hosting package or as an add-on, you can easily purchase one through an outside 3rd party.  Cloudflare and DigiCert are two of the most popular and reliable digital certificate providers.

If you are considering a third-party SSL certificate provider then you may want to do some research to see the various price levels available, the reviews for the companies in the market, the level of support offered including managed or self-installation, supported browsers including mobile browsers, whether a site seal is offered to display to visitors, and more.

There are free SSL certificates available and these may meet your needs but there are some notable downsides to choosing a free option over a paid service. For example, free certificates usually only offer Domain Validated SSL rather than the higher tier options. In addition, these free certificates will have to manually be installed and implemented which may require more technical know-how than some website owners have. Plus, support tends to be lacking as the free SSL certificate providers leave much of the work up to the user.

If you’re looking for an Organization Validated SSL certificate or an EV SSL certificate then you will likely have to opt for a paid service and, in that case, you should consider all other included features like support, and the level of security provided if you are planning on putting down your hard-earned money. If you need to cover more than just one domain name, that should also be a consideration as you compare the various options on the market as some certificates may only be valid for a single domain and a multi-domain certificate may be more costly up-front but end up saving money in the long run.

How to integrate SSL into your website

Now that you understand the importance of SSL, you need to actually integrate it into your website.  The good news is that the process is simple and, in many cases, you may not have to do much at all.

First, you’ll need to have a dedicated IP address for hosting your website. This is usually a nominal extra cost on top of your basic website hosting plan, and higher tier plans often include this as a standard feature. If you are unsure, reach out to your webhost’s customer service department to clarify if this feature is included in the plan you already have, or are thinking about purchasing.

Next, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate, and depending on the certificate type, submit all the required information to the Certificate Authority. Be sure to reference all of the guidelines outlined above as you’re evaluating your options. 

Once the certificate is purchased, you’ll need to activate it. Typically, if you have purchased an SSL certificate through your hosting provider, then the activation process will automatically be done for you. You’ll want to check with customer service to confirm this, however.  If this isn’t a standard service that’s offered, you can usually activate your certificate through the advanced security settings tab in the administration panel of your hosting provider.

Installing the certificate is the final step. If your hosting provider did go ahead and automatically activate your certificate, then this step is likely already completed for you as well. If not, the installation can be done through the administration panel for your website as well. It’s important to note that this step cannot be completed until the certificate has been activated.

While that may seem like a lot of work, the reality is that many hosting providers do a lot of the legwork for you when you purchase a hosting plan from them. In fact, in most cases, all you will have to do is ensure that SSL is a part of the plan you are purchasing, and then sit back and enjoy improved website security.

WordPress plugins for SSL

If you are like the millions of website owners that use WordPress, you may be wondering if there are any helpful plugins that can make enabling and integrating SSL into your website quick and easy. And the good news is that there are several plugins you can use that’ll make your WordPress website more secure.

Really Simple SSL is a plugin that eliminates the most common challenges associated with SSL implementation. With just one click, you can enable SSL on your website and and take advantage of basic settings that make it easy to manage the certificate itself, as well as your sites security. A Pro version of the plugin is also available, which provides additional features and options for advanced users that need more control over their website security.

Easy HTTPS Redirection is another WordPress plugin that simplifies the process of SSL integration and configuration. Since many of your website’s pages may not need SSL, this plugin allows you to pick and choose the pages that do, and quickly enable SSL on them as needed. Examples of pages where you would want SSL protection would include login pages, webstore checkout pages, and contact pages.

WP Force SSL also makes adding SSL a breeze. With a few clicks, you can have your website’s pages redirect to a secure connection. It’s important to note, however, that this plugin does lack many advanced options, and may not be the ideal choice if you’re looking for a lot of control, as well as customizability options.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer doesn’t actually provide an SSL, but makes important fixes and quality of life improvements to ensure that the experience users have on your website is not negatively affected by SSL encryption. It’s a great addition to your arsenal since it works seamlessly in tandem with other SSL plugins.

Better security, better search results, better customer experiences

SSL is an essential tool for website owners. The experience provided to your visitors is directly affected by whether or not you have enabled SSL. Plus, with search engines placing a greater emphasis on SSL, the success of your online marketing efforts may be directly linked to whether or not you have SSL.

As security concerns become more top of mind for the average Internet user, basic features like SSL implementation are quickly becoming the industry norm. Your client experience and your reputation as a business will soon be dependent on addressing security concerns and providing a secure, encrypted browsing experience from start to finish.

An In-Depth Guide to Torrenting

An In-Depth Guide to Torrenting and How to Ensure Your Safety, Security, and Privacy

Torrenting has come under increased scrutiny in recent years as content producers look to take greater control over how their content is shared online. This includes lobbying for new laws to be established that address online sharing, as well as a push for improved enforcement of existing laws.

Since each country has its own laws and regulations regarding sharing content online, the question of, “is torrenting legal?” is a difficult one to answer. There are a lot of varying regulations and grey areas to consider.

In this article, we will look at some of the rules surrounding torrenting, and help you better understand how torrenting may affect you.

What is torrenting?  How does torrenting work?

First, it’s important to understand what torrenting actually is. On a basic level, torrenting is a method of downloading a file like a movie or television series. It’s important to note, however, that torrenting isn’t like downloading a file directly from a webstore. Instead of using a single point for people to download from, torrenting is a form of peer-to-peer file sharing that can use a number of sources to help complete a file download.

The advantage of torrent websites and torrenting is that the file is split up into multiple smaller pieces that can be delivered much more quickly by people that already own the file (called seeders), verses downloading a large file from a single source. Some popular torrents can have hundreds or even thousands of seeders helping send parts of files to users who are downloading the file. In fact, 22% of all upstream traffic on the Internet today can be attributed to torrenting.

While torrenting can be used to download files that are perfectly legitimate and legal, there are many cases where people share copyrighted content which can run afoul of certain copyright law. This is done by providing a magnet link, which people can input into their torrent platform of choice. This connects seeders and hosts with people interested in downloading the file. Once the download is complete, that person can then become a seeder depending on their own settings, and then help others download the same file for themselves.

Is torrenting safe?

One very common question about torrenting is whether it’s actually safe. To be clear, the actual mechanisms of torrenting are safe, and there are perfectly legitimate reasons to torrent and share files, especially if the file is large and is available in the public domain. The challenge with safety as it relates to torrenting comes stems from the people who are distributing the files.

Cyber criminals use torrents as a method of distributing malware to unsuspecting users because it’s open source. This is especially true with very popular torrents, like the new Game of Thrones season, which saw over 400,000 torrents being shared for some episodes. With that kind of popularity and download volume, hackers can target a large number of users with just a few infected files being shared.

So, how can you protect yourself from these kinds of attacks through torrent files?

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of due diligence on your part.  First, you should always look at the type of file being shared. So, for example, an audio file should be in an .mp3 format or other standard audio format. Seeing a file with a .exe or .zip extension is a dead giveaway that the torrent may actually be malware rather than the audio file it claims to be.

Using an anti-malware software that allows you to scan files before opening them is another good option. This will help you identify malware before the file is opened and able to distribute itself on your system.

Another great way to keep yourself safe while torrenting is to view the uploader’s history and reviews. Most torrent sites require uploaders to have a profile that other users can rate. New users and/or users with bad ratings should be avoided.

At the end of the day, there’s no way to sugar coat things: torrenting can be very risky. Putting some basic security practices into place can reduce the risk significantly, however.

Is torrenting legal?

Depending on where you live, the answer to this question could be yes,no, or maybe. The challenge related to the legality of torrenting largely stems from the varying laws that are in place around the world, and the confusion that these different laws can cause.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that torrenting itself is not illegal, and there are perfectly legitimate reasons for torrenting that do not run afoul of any laws. The question of legality tends to come up when people are discussing copyrighted materials like television shows, music, and movies.

So to break it down into the most simplistic terms, torrenting itself is not illegal, but the type of content being torrented is what often makes the entire process illegal.

In most countries around the world, pirating copyrighted material is against the law, and the consequences can range from a slap on the wrist to serious fines. Depending on severity and location, some people who torrent may even face jail time.

In several countries, Internet service providers are tasked with monitoring for pirated content being downloaded or shared. The consequences of being caught include having a letter sent to your home, having your Internet speed throttled, getting your service agreement cancelled, and potential legal action.

It’s incredibly rare for individual users to be targeted for legal action, but there are some exceptions to that rule. People who share a large number of torrents to their peers online may become a target for legal action since they aren’t just downloading copyrighted content, but they are also helping to distribute it.

When it comes to the legality of torrenting, it will ultimately come down to the type of content being torrented and the copyright laws where you live. It would be wise to take some time to familiarize yourself with local laws so that you can better understand the legal risks of torrenting.

Streaming vs Torrenting

Streaming and torrenting are 2 ways to enjoy content online. There are some important differences between the two, however. As previously discussed, torrenting is a form of peer-to-peer downloading. Once the download is complete, the files are on your device to enjoy whenever you wish.

Streaming, on the other hand, occurs when you connect to a single streaming service or platform. With streaming, the file is hosted on another server and you simply watch the content instead of downloading a file.

Depending on the jurisdiction, there are many legal differences between streaming and torrenting. Again, this will comes down to the local laws in your country. Also keep in mind that laws can – and often do – change over time. So while streaming may currently be legal where you live, it may not remain that way in the future.

Services like Netflix are a paid form of streaming where things like TV shows and movies have been officially licensed. There is no legal risk to using a service like this. Unofficial streaming providers could pose a legal risk if you choose to use their services, however.

With legal streaming services, the content available is limited. This is due to the licensing agreements in place. Services like Netflix and Hulu can only pay so much money for programming and they must compete with each other to secure programming. What this means is that everything you want to watch is unlikely to be available from a single streaming provider, and you’ll need to sign up for multiple services.

What happens if I get caught torrenting?

The risks of being caught torrenting vary from country to country. There are, however, some basic consequences to be on the lookout for when torrenting that may indicate you’ve been caught in the act.

The first indicator is often some form of contact from your Internet service provider (ISP). They will usually send a letter or email stating that you have been torrenting. In some cases, they may even know which file you were torrenting. This letter usually concludes with a request to stop torrenting.

If you continue, you may find that your Internet connection speeds are adversely affected. Internet service providers don’t appreciate the amount of bandwidth that torrenting takes up on their network.  As such, they try to identify people who are torrenting and place caps on their Internet speeds. This makes downloading torrents incredibly slow. The idea is that since it’ll be so inconvenient to download the files, the behavior will stop.

In some cases, an actual copyright holder may send a letter or initiate legal action against you if you’re caught torrenting or sharing their content. This will usually begin with a settlement offer, and may progress to an actual court case, which can rack up thousands of dollars in fees and fines.  Legal action is rare, but certainly not unheard of. People who share a lot of content are at an increased risk of actually being taken to court for their actions.

Ultimately, if you get caught torrenting, it could affect your ability to enjoy the Internet, and may even put a target on your back for legal action. This is obviously not an ideal outcome, so it’s important to protect yourself.

What are copyright trolls?

One of the biggest risks of getting caught torrenting is becoming the target of a copyright troll. These are copyright holders, or companies hired to represent copyright holders, that try to earn settlements against people who have torrented their content. The methods that they use are why many people refer to them as “trolls.”

These people know that the likelihood of getting a significant judgment against someone who occasionally torrents content is rare. They are also aware that the penalties for this will not amount to much. They use alarming messaging and professionally written letters, however, to try and scare people into settling a case before it goes to court. These letters are often sent through the Internet service provider since copyright trolls often only know the IP address of the person doing the torrenting, but not their actual identity.

The letters sent will often quote the type of content that was downloaded and cite the maximum penalty for copyright violation. This amount can be scary for a lot of people, but in reality, thoe maximum penalties are often reserved for people and/or companies committing commercial-scale copyright infringement as opposed to personal use infringement. Simply put, these letters are meant to scare people and make them act quickly without stopping to think.

In the letter, after quoting the maximum penalty for going to court, copyright trolls will typically offer a reduced settlement amount, which will prevent the case from going to court. In most cases, the copyright troll does not know the name or the address of the offender, and these letters can simply be ignored. This is expected, however. They know that only a fraction of people will pay the settlement fee and, for them, this is a better use of time than actually taking people to court.

This is not to say that a copyright troll will not escalate a case and take someone to court. It has happened in the past and will happen a lot more in the future if laws are changed to further benefit copyright holders. In most cases, the chances that a copyright troll will actually take you to court are minimal. If the letter seems vague and does not include any identifying personal information, you can probably ignore it.  Just keep in mind that you were caught, and need to take action to ensure that you aren’t caught again.

How to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) while torrenting

A VPN is one of the best ways to ensure your online privacy, and torrenting is one activity that can greatly benefit from the use of a VPN.

VPNs connect you to remote servers, and create an encrypted tunnel between you and the remote server. By doing so, the information that’s passed through the tunnel can’t be seen by copyright trolls, Internet service providers, or even law enforcement.

As a result, no one can tell what the data actually is, which means you can torrent and no one will ever know. What’s more, there are no laws against using a VPN in most countries, so you can feel confident that you are protecting your privacy legally and avoiding some of the nasty surprises associated with torrenting without a VPN.

The best VPNs also provide an extra layer of protection thanks to their remote servers. Since you are connecting to a remote server, your IP address is not actually the one making the request to other servers. This means that your IP address is protected, since the remote server’s IP address is actually the one making the request. It’s just one more piece of the security puzzle that makes a VPN a fantastic tool if you want to ensure your privacy online, regardless of what you’re doing.

Ultimately, if you are planning on torrenting, it would be wise to consider using a VPN. The privacy protection from copyright trolls and your Internet service provider will ensure that you enjoy uninterrupted service at full speeds, without the risk of copyright trolls trying to take your money.

The In’s and Out’s of Webcam Hacking

The In’s and Out’s of Webcam Hacking

What is webcam hacking?

Webcam hacking occurs when hackers gain access to the cameras on electronic devices like smartphones, laptops, CCTVs, baby monitors, home surveillance and home security systems, tablets, and PCs. Hackers then use this backdoor channel to your devices to gain complete control of your devices, steal information, or simply spy on you without your consent.

Should you be concerned about webcam spying?

A study conducted by the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland found that a hacker attack takes place every 39 seconds. With a record 200 billion devices estimated to be connected to the Internet by 2020, hackers have an open field to target unsuspecting individuals who aren’t tech savvy and spy on them remotely through their own devices. Macs and Microsoft-based operating systems are not immune, nor are iPhones and Android phones.

The webcam hacking epidemic is a growing concern, even amongst the most tech savvy of individuals. In fact, former FBI Director James Comey has admitted to putting tape over his computer camera when it’s not in use.

Being watched without your knowledge by people who don’t know you - or who do know you, in some cases - is a blatant breach of your privacy. Whether you have anything to hide or not is of little consequence. NSA leaks have already confirmed that the US government has back channel links to all iPhone and Blackberry cameras and microphones, which means Big Brother is watching you 24/7, and listening in to all your conversations.

How does that make you feel?

How does webspam hacking work? How do people hack you?

Simply being connected to the Internet makes any device vulnerable to hacking. If you have cameras on these devices and no anti-malware software to check for security breaches, the software that regulates your camera and facilitates its functions is susceptible to being compromised.

Here are the most popular ways hackers illegally break into webcams and spy on your devices:

1. Weak passwords

Software programs that guess passwords are a dime a dozen, and can easily break into devices that use 123456, qwerty, and other passwords on similar lines. These are lines of code that run on backend channels, and are programmed to decode dictionary words and popular number combinations that people use as passwords. Once they hit the right word and number combination, like qwerty123, your login credentials are compromised and your account information is accessible to hackers.

2. Malware

Malicious pieces of code, also known as Malware, are programmed to:

  • Embed themselves in your device under the radar without your knowledge
  • Operate silently in the background
  • Exploit a lot of information about your device’s software

Malware is routinely spread via popular downloads. Wallpapers, pictures of celebrities, .exe files for basic functions, and browser plugins from questionable sources may all contain malware that is innocently downloaded onto your system and gives hackers access to your webcam.

3. Botnets

Botnets are groups of computers with disreputable intentions that regularly search web properties to target software flaws in a website’s code, as well as online databases and operating systems. Botnets then use these lapses in software security protocols and manual errors to their advantage. This results in sneaky, and sometimes even hostile, takeovers of such properties. Once compromised, the botnet can access files that contain usernames and password logs of customers, and use this information to further hack thousands of users, as well as gain control of their digital devices.

OF NOTE: this is why using the same password across different websites is discouraged. It makes your device easier to hack, if even one of the apps or sites you are registered on is compromised.

4. Remote Access Trojans (RATs)

Remote Access Trojans, also known as Remote Administration Tools, are software programs that let someone control your device remotely from afar, which makes them very hard to track. Hackers that use RATs don’t need to be near you to hack your devices. The Trojan software they use to hack is inserted in freenet files, bit torrents, and P2P file transfers on platforms like Bearshare, Kazaa and Limewire. When you download any files from these sources, the Trojan software is sneakily installed on your device, and then runs in the background silently. This allows hackers to watch your activities, spy on you through your webcam, listen in on your conversations through your mic, and read data stored on your system.

Who is spying on your webcam? Who is behind webcam hacking attacks?

Most hackers are just regular individuals with a solid understanding of software security protocols and operating system vulnerabilities. While the probability of someone close to you hacking your webcam is rare, it isn’t unheard of. Hackers are usually random people who direct their efforts at any and every device connected to the Internet.

Basic dictionary scripts, which are simple lines of code, are freely available on the Internet and can easily be accessed by novices and kids trying to act cool. These are unsophisticated attacks that try to decipher weak passwords to gain control of your device cameras.

Then there are recreational hackers who aren’t looking to spy on you, but won’t hesitate to help others accomplish this goal by relying on their technical knowhow. They might not benefit directly from access to your webcams, but they most definitely aren’t above exploiting the information collected for gains like social media notoriety, or to teach a lesson to big corporations. Your privacy breach matters little to them at the end of the day.

Professional hackers are the ones that you need to be weary of. These are individuals who hack with a purpose, which include things like:

  • Selling the information acquired to make a quick buck
  • Bullying people online to do their bidding
  • Hacking on behalf of paid clients to settle personal scores
  • Creating live video feed links for others to watch you for free, in real-time, while they monetize such feeds with ads
  • Using your camera to gain access to your device and turn it into a crypto mining machine
  • Recording you in compromising positions to blackmail you
  • Stealing information from your device like credit card numbers, passwords to confidential accounts, banking details, sensitive pictures, videos, and other classified information, either to steal money or gain the upper hand on people in positions of power.
  • Using numerous cameras to drive a high volume of traffic to specific websites in the form of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks in an attempt to take them down. This is usually done to try and censor their activities and/or blackmail them.
  • Hack business websites to collect client information, proprietary trade secrets, audit files, business statistics and internal communications. In fact, according to Juniper Research, in 2019 alone, businesses will lose approximately $2 trillion due to cyber security attacks by hackers.

In addition to individuals, private organizations, rival businesses, government organizations, and disgruntled social media warriors groups could also be spying on you.

Real life examples of webcam hacking

The Toronto webcam hacking case

In August 2015, a 27 yea- old woman in Toronto was photographed watching Netflix with her boyfriend. Hackers later shared these images with her through her Facebook account. Remote Access Trojans were used to compromise her webcam and manipulate it remotely. Although the Toronto Police were informed and involved, investigations were inconclusive in leading to the actual source of the Trojans. This should serve as a chilling and creepy reminder to always keep your webcams covered and secure.

The OVH webcam DDoS attack

In September 2016, cloud computing firm OVH reported a concentrated DDoS attack on its servers by 145,607 cameras and DVRs, which sent over 1.5 terabytes per second of traffic to its website. These were regular cameras from compromised devices of unsuspecting individuals who unknowingly had malware-infested devices with remotely controlled webcams. While the people who were hacked were not harmed directly in this case, they were unwitting accomplices in a cyber security crime aimed at a corporate firm.

The software hacker from Ohio

In January 2018, Phillip Durachinsky, a 28 year-old programmer from Ohio was indicted on 16 counts of identity theft, cyber violations, and fraud in breach of the federal Wiretap Act. Durachinsky did not discriminate between his victims, and targeted individuals working in schools, corporations, small businesses, and government entities. Durachinsky installed malware on computers and then spied via webcams, created a database of child pornography, and stole information, including passwords, identities, tax records, pictures, videos, medical records, and anything useful he could get his hands on. He had been at it for 13 years before the FBI finally caught him.

These disparate cases are proof that nobody is safe from cyber hackers and webcam spying. Which brings us to the question of how to prevent webcam hacking? What steps can you take to stop your webcam from being compromised?

Precautions you can take today against webcam spying

  1. The simplest and easiest way to prevent webcam spying is to simply cover your device cameras with masking tape when the camera is not in use. While this isn’t always feasible, it’s the safest option.
  2. Use strong passwords. For as tempting as it may be, do not use the same passwords across different web properties. While this isn’t a failsafe measure, it keeps you safer from amateur hacking attempts, which make up a majority of cyber attacks.
  3. Do not download software, pictures, or other files from random sites. Only trust software from official sources. So, for example, only download Adobe products like Acrobat Reader directly from the official Adobe site, and not from random software download sites online. Beware of malware on peer-to-peer sites and bit torrents.
  4. Always logout from online sessions when you’re done. Idle data transfer sessions when you’re logged in to things like your bank account online make it easier for hackers to inject suspicious data packets alongside regular file transfers, which can capture the session and be used to gain access to your cameras and microphones.
  5. Keep your anti-virus software up to date. Install software security patches as soon as they are released. Keep your operating systems current as well.
  6. Restrict webcam access by modifying the settings on your device. Only allow trusted IPs to access your webcam. Do not allow unrestricted webcam access to all apps on your devices or the websites you visit.
  7. Use proxy servers and VPNs, which greatly reduce the chances that your camera will be hacked.

Stay vigilant. If you see the webcam LED blinking even when you aren’t using the camera, immediately cover it up, disconnect the device from the Internet, and reset your webcam settings.  From there, uninstall suspicious apps and recent downloads. If everything else fails, reset your device to factory settings. 

Frequently asked questions about webcam security and hacking

Can hackers see me via my computer camera?

Yes. And your webcam LED might not always turn on to indicate that the camera is in use.

Can they listen to my phone calls?

Hacking webcams is often used as a gateway to gain partial or total device control. If this is what the hacker intends to do, then your microphone is also vulnerable and it won’t be difficult to record videos and your calls,  as well as listen in on your conversations.

Are they monitoring my Facebook messages?

If your camera is compromised and acts as a gateway to other apps and controls on your device, and you are logged in to your FB account, then yes.

Facebook demands total access to your device’s camera and microphone in its Terms of Service. Users must accept these conditions to install and use the app on their digital devices. Facebook has allegedly been using your camera to record your activities. Some experts claim that the social media giant tracks the content you look at so that it can serve more of what keeps you engaged, as well as accesses your microphone to record your conversations so that more targeted ads can be served.

Can hackers access the camera on my phone?

Yes. All cameras that are embedded in devices connected to the Internet like laptops, smartphones, CCTVs, baby monitors, and home security cameras, as well as IoT devices like refrigerators, washing machines and DVRs, are susceptible to hacking.

Is my webcam spying on me? How can I tell if my webcam has been compromised?

It could be. Does the webcam LED blink even when you’re not using it? If yes, then someone else is controlling it and possibly spying on you.

Apart from that, if you notice suspicious activity logs on your laptop and/or mobile phone, vanishing funds from your bank accounts (even in small sums), opened emails or messages that you never saw before, then something is awry and you should take immediate action.

Can webcam hacking be prevented?

Yes, there are several precautionary measures you can take to avoid being and easy victim of webcam hacking, which we’ve outlined above.  Beyond that, software technology is constantly changing and evolving, so what’s secure today might be easily compromised tomorrow. Stay sharp and beware.

On a simpler note, you can always disconnect from the Internet, which will terminate the connection that’s being used to spy on you.

Is it possible to hack my laptop through my webcam?

Yes. Trojan spyware can use webcam hacking as a getaway to further explore your laptop’s software vulnerabilities, as well as access other applications like music players and browsers. In severe cases, hackers can use it to gain total control of your laptop.

Can my CCTV camera be hacked?

A Google search for ‘How to Hack a CCTV camera’ returns 20,80,000 results in 0.5 seconds. If you think at least one of those links doesn’t lead you to a proper guide to CCTV camera hacking, it’s time to log off, shut down, and stay away from the Internet for good.

How to Tell If You’ve Been Hacked

How to Tell If You’ve Been Hacked

Most people rely on their computers and other connected devices on a daily basis for work, entertainment, education, and communication. These devices have become a powerful part of our lives. When hackers are able to access these devices, it can feel like a major violation of privacy and trust.

With nearly one million new forms of malware being released every day, it can be impossible for the average user to stay on top of the latest threats. The good news is that this doesn’t mean that you’re completely helpless. Understanding some important computer safety practices, knowing what to look for when you’ve been hacked, and how to solve the issue can all help you maintain and/or restore your privacy.

What is browser hacking?

Web browsing is one of the most common activities people will participate in online. That makes it a prime hacking opportunity, with a number of random ways for hackers to gain unauthorized access.

How do people get hacked?

Every website, every download, and every popup advertisement could potentially be a hack. Of course, most popular websites are safe to use but there are many websites designed to hijack a user’s browser for nefarious purposes.

Some malicious websites can install hacks without the user’s knowledge, which gives hackers access to usernames and passwords, as well as a whole host of online accounts, including financial institutions.

Another type of browser hack involves convincing a user to unknowingly install malicious code in the form of a browser extension. Popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox allow users to install browser extensions that can improve the capability of their browser. Trusted extensions are available through the browser’s app store but users can also install extensions from third-party providers.

There is also a form of hacking called Wi-Fi hacking. This does not necessarily directly affect your browser but hackers can use tools on open public Wi-Fi networks to monitor data being sent over the network and then steal the information for their own use. This is why it is not recommended you use a browser to check important personal information like banking details on a public wi-fi network without first connecting to a VPN which can encrypt your data and make it impossible for hackers to monitor.

How to determine if your browser has been hacked

Identifying a browser hack can be difficult. Some hacks sit quietly in the background to try and avoid detection by the user. Other hacks may be much more noticeable.

  • One surefire indication that your browser has been hacked is if your home page has been changed without your input or you are noticing that entering the address of your favorite website causes you to be redirected to a totally different website. Often, these websites are advertising pornography, gambling, or fake antivirus software.
  • Poor device performance could also indicate you have been hacked. Some malicious browser extensions are able to use your computer hardware for cryptocurrency mining, as an example. Since your processor is being pushed to mine cryptocurrency, performance for other tasks can slow to a crawl.
  • Frequent pop-up ads or security warnings can also be a sign that your browser has been hacked. Some popups while browsing the web are to be expected. However, security warnings indicating that you need to download software or advertisements for adult content when you are not visiting adult websites are not normal browser behaviors. In some cases, the popups can be so frequent and pervasive that they make browsing the web almost impossible.

How to fix browser hacks

If your browser has been hacked, there are some steps to take to resolve the problem and prevent further hacking or data loss.

  1. Scan Your Computer for Malware  Use a trusted anti-malware or virus scanner to see if there are any malicious programs installed on your device. This will catch any malware installed on your device but may not necessarily notice a malicious browser extension.
  2. Perform a Clean Install of Your Browser Many people will attempt to uninstall browser toolbars or extensions to remove the malware threat. In some cases, this may be helpful if the infection is localized to those specific pieces of software. However, there could be additional threats hiding out of plain sight that will not be resolved by simply uninstalling specific extensions. The safest way to ensure the threat is removed is by completely uninstalling the software and then installing fresh from scratch.
  3. Practice Safe Browsing in the Future  Once a clean install has been done and you have verified no other malware is on your device, it’s important to practice safe browsing moving forward to prevent further infections. Only visit trusted websites, only download extensions from the approved browser store, and never click on suspicious links or popups.

Email/Gmail/Yahoo hacking

Your email is one of your most essential forms of communication, and having your email account hacked can be a devastating experience.

How do email accounts get hacked?

The most common way that email accounts get hacked is through password stealing. After all, hackers need your password in order to access your email.

One method of accessing email accounts is by simply brute forcing passwords. Hackers can use programs to guess passwords based on common words or phrases. These programs will try thousands of passwords in a short period of time.

A more common method of hacking email passwords is by simply stealing the password itself. This can be done by installing malware onto a device that tracks keystrokes, known as a keylogger. In some cases, if you use the same password across multiple services, a data breach with one service can open up all of your accounts to hacking.

Phishing attacks are another popular way of stealing email passwords. Hackers will send emails that appear to be legitimate and ask users for login information to verify themselves.

In reality, email providers and other services will never ask you to send them login info in order to verify yourself. This is a red flag and could indicate that you are the target of a phishing attack.

How to determine if your email has been hacked

  • One easy way to tell that your email has been hacked is if you can no longer log into your email inbox. When hackers gain access, they will often change your password to try and stop you from locking them out again.
  • If you find yourself suddenly logged out of your email account and unable to log back in due to an incorrect password, this could indicate that your email has been hacked.
  • Another way hackers will use your email is by sending spam from your address to contacts in your address book. Since these contacts recognize your email address as legitimate, their guard may be down which makes it much easier for hackers to launch phishing attacks or send spam for adult websites, fake security software, and other unwanted services.
  • If your friends or family are questioning strange emails from you that you do not recall sending, this may be an important sign that your email account has been hacked.

How to fix an email hack

If you have reason to believe that your email has been hacked, here are some steps you can take to help solve the issue.

  1. Scan Your Devices for Malware  The first step is to ensure you remove any malware that may potentially be logging keystrokes and stealing passwords. Scan your device with a trusted anti-malware software to ensure the problem is removed before moving ahead to other steps.
  2. Change Your Email Password If a hacker has accessed your email then they have access to your password. Changing your password will stop them dead in their tracks. Choose a password that is difficult to guess and unique from all of your other passwords. Using a password manager can help you keep track of your different passwords and some of them even generate unique passwords for you.
  3. Set Up Two-Factor Authentication  A password is just one layer of security and, if you have been hacked, then you are well aware that it is not 100% secure. Setting up an additional layer of security like two-factor authentication can prevent hackers from logging into your email account even if they do manage to steal your password. Two-factor authentication requires users enter a code that is either texted to their phone or generated using an authenticator app like Google Authenticator.

Security questions are also a good extra layer of security but they are not as secure as two-factor authentication that uses a randomly generated code. If you do wish to use security questions, don’t choose questions that can be easily guessed by people that know you or people who have gleaned information from your public social media profiles.

What is phone hacking?

If you have a smartphone then, chances are, it is an important part of your life. It contains your contacts, your calendar, your email, and much more. It’s no wonder these devices are popular targets for hackers that want access to your personal information.

How do phones get hacked?

Both Android and iOS operating systems are built to be very secure. However, they can still be hacked just like any other connected device.

A common method of hacking is by installing malicious apps. Apple and Google work hard to verify the security of the apps on their app stores and remove anything that does not meet their standards. Unfortunately, however, some users will install apps that are not available in the official stores. These apps may have malicious code that can steal information, install other programs, or even lock user devices.

Password stealing is another common method of phone hacking. Much like the email hacking methods listed above, hackers can steal phone passwords and PINs. And even if the phone is not in a hackers possession, they can still perform actions like remotely locking and wiping the device, installing malicious apps, or stealing information.

How to determine if your phone has been hacked

There are some important things to look out for that may suggest your phone has been hacked.

  • Poor performance is a strong indicator that your phone may be hacked. While most phones will experience declining performance over time, this is usually a slow and gradual process. Rapid slowdowns and performance loss may indicate something else out of the ordinary is at play. Some malicious apps, for example, can hijack a phone’s processors to mine cryptocurrency.
  • Popups and advertisements on the device may also be a sign that the phone has been hacked. While the occasional popup on a website is not out of the ordinary, frequent popup’s that are intrusive and advertising adult content are not normal.

How to fix a phone hack

Following these steps can give you back control of your smartphone.

  1. Uninstall All Suspicious Apps Any app that was not downloaded from the official app store or apps that you do not recall downloading should be uninstalled. As a rule, those that want to ensure the safety of their device should avoid installing any apps from sources outside of the official app stores.
  2. Change Device Passwords This is a good opportunity to also change device passwords and update the passwords on services used on the phone. Your passwords should be unique and difficult to guess. As mentioned above, you may want to use a password manager to keep track of everything.
  3. Perform all Software Updates iOS and Android, as well as the apps you download, are updated frequently. Not only do these updates introduce new features, but they also help improve security by eliminating bugs or security holes. Putting off updates can leave your phone vulnerable to hacks.
  4. Do a Factory Reset (Optional) This step may not be necessary if the above steps appear to resolve the issue. However, if the phone continues to perform poorly or display unwanted ads, users may want to perform a factory reset on their device through the settings. Please note that this will wipe all of your data and essentially return the phone to the state it was in when you bought it. This should be a last ditch effort to fix phone hacking.

Facebook and social media hacking

Social media is a great way to share information and keep in contact with friends and family around the world. This makes social media sites like Facebook a great communication tool but they are also prime targets for hackers.

How do social network accounts get hacked?

Hackers gain access to social media profiles by using the passwords set up by users to log in to their accounts. How they get these passwords can vary.

  • One method is to simply guess the password using software. This software can guess hundreds or thousands of passwords very quickly. A strong password will be hard for the software to guess as the software tends to focus on common words, phrases, and numbers.
  • More commonly, passwords are stolen by tricking users. Malicious code on your device may track keystrokes and send password information to hackers so that they are able to access your social media accounts.
  • With social media sites like Facebook, users can also link apps to their profile. Hackers have been able to develop malicious apps that steal user information which, in some cases, can include passwords.
  • Phishing attempts are another popular method that hackers use to steal passwords. Emails that appear legitimate are sent out to users. The email will look like it’s from Facebook or Twitter and ask a user to log in to verify their identity. The link in the email takes a user to a fake website where they enter their login information which is forwarded to the hackers.
  • There have been cases in the past where Facebook accounts were being cloned. While this is not a “hack” in the purest sense of the word, it can certainly feel very similar. Users have noticed that there are accounts that share the same name and photos as their friends or family. After accepting these friend requests, users are inundated with spam messages which may contain malware or malicious links.
  • If you receive a friend request from someone you know but the profile is light on content with maybe just a handful of photos and information, check with your friend outside of Facebook first to see if this new account is legitimate.

How to determine if your social media accounts have been hacked

One of the most common ways people will become aware of their social media accounts being hacked is when they hear from friends or family that they are posting strange updates or sending unusual messages. Hackers will post spam messages that share products or services. In many cases, the links that are shared lead to malicious websites which help hackers collect even more information.

Users that can no longer log in to their social media accounts may also find they have been hacked. Often, once a hacker gains access, they will change passwords to prevent users from logging in and stopping the messages from being sent.

How to fix social media hacks

These steps can stop hackers from spamming your friends and family and allow you to take back control over your own personal social media profile.

  1. Change Your Password Immediately  The first step to stopping a social media hacker is to change your password. This will stop them from being able to log in and continue sending malicious content to your friends or followers.
  2. Remove Suspicious Apps Review linked apps and services in the settings menu of the platform you are using. Disable or remove any apps or services that you do not need.
  3. Scan Your Computer for Malware If a hacker stole your password with a keylogger then the malware may still be on your computer. Scan your device with a trusted anti-malware program to remove the malicious software.
  4. Set Up 2-Factor Authentication Most popular social media platforms offer two-factor authentication which adds another layer of security when logging in. Even if a hacker were to steal your password in the future, they would be unable to access the account thanks to two-factor authentication. In addition, your authentication method can sometimes indicate someone is trying to access your account and prompt you to change your password.

Resources

There are some helpful resources that you can use to protect yourself online.

If you find that creating and remembering complex passwords is a challenge then you could try a password generator and keeper service like 1Password. This service can generate incredibly complex passwords that are almost impossible for most hackers to brute force and guess. Then, these passwords are stored in a secure, encrypted location for you to review later. There is no need to actually remember or write down the password you generated.

Two-factor authentication is another great security tool and most popular websites support the feature now. Google Authenticator is one of the most highly recommended apps for two-factor code generation. Setting it up is simple and the process only adds a few more second to your usual login process.

Using a VPN is also a very helpful tool in protecting your information. This is especially true if you find yourself using open public Wifi networks like those found in coffee shops, airports, and other public locations. Express VPN comes highly recommended online and is simple to use. There are a number of other services available to protect your data online.

Finally, users may wish to install anti-malware protection on their devices. Malwarebytes is a popular choice for many users. You can set up regular scans to check for malware and, if any is found, Malwarebytes will quarantine and remove the infection so that you can continue to use your device safely. Combined with smart browsing and downloading habits, anti-malware software can be an important second layer of security.

How to Tell If Your Smartphone Has Been Hacked

How to Tell If Your Smartphone Has Been Hacked

Your smartphone is one of the most important devices that you own. It connects you to your email, phone calls, text messages, social media accounts, and can even act as your wallet.

For many people, their smartphone is one of the most important tools in their day-to-day life. So, it should come as no surprise that hackers want access to your smartphone and the treasure chest of data it contains.

Proper prevention is the most important step to avoid being hacked. However, even the most diligent users can still fall victim to hackers.

How do people get hacked via their phones?

Phone software is designed to be a very secure ecosystem. Unlike a laptop or desktop computer, it’s not as easy for smartphone users to download and install malicious programs from anywhere on the web. Instead, apps are held in the official app stores and verified for security.

Of course, nothing is 100% secure. There are ways to get around the security processes put in place by Apple and Google. These are the holes that hackers look for when seeking to hack cell phones.

Do apps spread viruses?

Can the apps you download from the app store on your device spread viruses? The short answer is: yes.

However, most apps downloaded from the official app store for your operating system are safe to use. Apple and Google go to great lengths to ensure that the apps available for download in their stores are safe. Of course, some apps have slipped through the cracks. For example, Google has removed apps in the past which contained adware that creates unwanted popups and messages.

The greater risk from apps comes when people choose to download and install apps that are not from the official app stores. This is easier to do on Android phones than iOS devices, but the risk is all the same. Installing an app from a website or third-party source means that the app has not gone through the Google or Apple verification process. As a result, the app may be loaded with malware that could track your location, steal your information, and even send messages without your consent.

This is not to say that all apps from third-party sources are not safe, but it’s important to know that downloading these apps comes with much greater risk than downloading apps from official app stores.

Can you be hacked using public Wi-Fi?

Keeping your phone bill to a minimum is important for pretty much anyone who owns a smartphone. To avoid going over data allotments, many people will connect to free public wi-fi networks. However, doing this can enable hackers to steal your information and access your accounts.

Viruses can be spread over rogue wi-fi connections. These are hotspots that appear legitimate but, in reality, are controlled by the hacker. Once users connect to the network, hackers can monitor data and even inject malware to connected devices.

While viruses being spread over open wi-fi hotspots are rare, there are other forms of hacking that can take place on free wi-fi networks. When you connect your device to these networks, you are opening your information up to anyone else who is connected to that network and has the technical know-how to view that information. This is referred to as a man in the middle attack.

Hackers will often connect to free public wi-fi networks and monitor the data that is sent over these networks. That data could include passwords, messages, and browsing information. With the stolen information, hackers may be able to access the accounts you use on your smartphone.

Using a VPN can protect against this as the VPN’s encrypt your data before sending it out across the network. For people who find themselves connecting to public wi-fi networks regularly, using a VPN can be a very effective way to prevent this type of smartphone hacking.

Can you be hacked via text message?

Text messaging is one of the most popular ways to communicate using a smartphone. Therefore, it is also a popular tool for hackers to use when attempting to trick a user into doing something they really don’t want to.

There are several ways text message viruses can spread. The most common method is when a hacker sets up a number to send out messages to a giant block of phone numbers. These messages usually contain links that redirect people to a page that is owned by the hacker.

From there, the hacker persuades people to download malicious code and/or spy apps, inundates their phone with popups, or simply directs them to sites where the hacker can earn money from sales or advertisements.

Some malicious apps have also been known to be able to take control of someone’s text messaging app and send out messages on their own. For this to work, however, you will need to have downloaded an app that enables the hacker to do this.

Once the app is downloaded, the hacker can then use your phone to message your contacts with links to download malicious apps and/or visit websites that are owned by the hacker. Since other people are seeing the message coming directly from you, they may not realize that the message is actually from a hacker and click on the link without thinking twice.

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Android hacks and fixes guide

Android devices are loved by many users around the world because they offer more freedom and customizability than iOS devices. However, this freedom comes at a cost, since it's easier for unwitting users to install apps or software that could harm their device.

How to determine if you have been hacked

  • Some of the most common hacks seen on Android devices are adware attacks. This malicious code causes different types of advertisements and popups to appear, even though they may not be related at all to the app you are using. Sometimes, these popups may even appear on your home screen.
  • The most common types of adware popups users will see typically ask users to download an app for virus removal. In reality, these virus removal apps are often ineffective and may, ironically, only serve to install even more pieces of malware. Other adware popups may advertise gambling, adult content, or dating services.
  • Another major red flag of a device hack is if your phone is sending text messages on its own. These messages will contain malicious links that try to convince your contacts to click and download software or make purchases.
  • Additional warning signs include degradation of device performance, overheating, and rapid battery drains that begin occurring suddenly. Malware can cause phones to work harder and dedicate processing power to other tasks.
  • Unexplained purchases from the app store or media stores is also a strong indicator that your smartphone, or the account it is registered to, has been hacked. An email notification for a purchase you did not make or unexplained purchases on your credit card bill should throw up red flags right away.

How to fix an Android hack

If you think that your Android device has been hacked, following these steps can help ensure the hack is removed and your data is protected.

  1. Uninstall all suspicious apps - Check your smartphone for any apps that you do not remember downloading yourself and uninstall these apps. Also, if you have recently installed any apps from outside the Play Store then you should uninstall those apps as well. If a malicious app cannot be uninstalled, find the method for your specific device on how to enter safe mode, and then try uninstalling the app that way.
  2. Change device passwords - At this point, it is important to try and prevent any further unauthorized access. Change your device password and PIN as well as any accounts you regularly access on your smartphone. If hackers have stolen your passwords then changing them is the fastest way to shut them out.
  3. Update software and apps - Google releases regular updates to Android that help to improve security. Skipping these updates can leave your device at risk. The same goes for apps from the Play Store. If they are not regularly updated when required, it may pose a security risk.
  4. Restore phone to factory settings (Optional) - If the Android hacks cannot be removed, there may be no other option other than to wipe the phone and begin from scratch.

Real world Android hack examples

There are many examples of Android hacks that have affected users over the years. Since it’s so easy for users to install apps from third-party sources rather than just the Google Play Store, hackers have a greater opportunity to serve up malicious apps.

One hack that gained attention was known as Plankton. This malware disguised itself as a support service for popular games but, instead, farmed user information and sent the data to a remote server without the user’s knowledge. The hack would often be discovered after users had unexplained data charges on their phone bill or if they found other services on their phone were being hacked as well.

There have also been trojans discovered in some Android apps that send messages from the user’s device to premium rate text messaging services. The hacker owns the premium services and gets paid while the user gets a surprise phone bill at the end of the month.

Some advanced Android users will try to replace a device’s firmware with custom firmware, which allows for greater customization and access. However, when downloading this firmware from sources online, users have encountered malicious firmware which sends all user data back to servers in China or Russia. The only way to resolve this hack is by completely wiping the device and reinstalling the original firmware.

iPhone hacks and fixes guide

The iPhone is the smartphone that started it all. The design of the device has inspired almost every modern smartphone and, for years, Apple was the clear king of the smartphone market. This popularity makes iPhones very popular targets for hackers who, if successful, could potentially infect millions of devices around the world.

How to determine if you have been hacked

iPhone hacking is much rarer than Android hacking. This is mainly due to the difference in philosophy when the software for the devices was designed. Android was meant to be a much more open ecosystem which, inevitably, could expose some users to malicious apps.

On the other hand, iOS is much more locked down. Many people refer to it as a walled garden. Users cannot easily install apps from sources other than the App Store. And the content available is very much dictated and curated by Apple to help protect its users.

With that said, it would be foolish to assume that an iPhone can never get a virus or be hacked. There are a number of ways for hackers to get past Apple’s best security efforts and users should watch for red flags that could indicate their device has been hacked.

  • One of the most common signs of malware on an iPhone are frequent popups. These can appear across a number of apps and usually prompt users to click links or download software. These could include security scanning apps, dating apps, or gambling apps. Suspicious security warning popups or popups that link to adult content are often also clear indicators that malware may be present on the device.
  • It’s also important for users to keep an eye on their data usage every month. While it’s normal for data usage to fluctuate somewhat from month to month, an unexplained random spike in data usage may be a sign that malware is using background data. Many types of malware will secretly track a user’s actions and send information to a third-party server. This information uses data and users may not realize it’s happening until their phone bill arrives.
  • Short battery life may also be a sign that something is working in the background without your knowledge.

How to fix iPhone hacks

These steps can help you take back control of your iPhone if you believe it has been hacked.

  1. Update to the latest version of iOS - One common way that people run into problems on their iPhone is if their iOS version is not fully updated. Some people will even install jailbroken versions of iOS to open up third-party app stores and programs that are not supported by Apple officially. However, this out-of-date software can pose a major security risk and it is recommended to update to the newest version of iOS as soon as possible.
  2. Uninstall unrecognized apps - If there are any apps on your device that you do not recognize or use, you should uninstall those apps. They could contain malware or have been installed by a hacker without your permission. Tap and hold the app until the icon to remove the app appears and choose the uninstall option.
  3. Change your iCloud password - Passwords are your key to everything on your device. For a hacker, these can be very valuable. With your iCloud password, hackers can steal your photos, calendar entries, emails, and more. If you believe you have been hacked, changing your password is the fastest way to hold the hackers at bay while you fix the situation.
  4. Factory data reset (Optional) - If your iPhone is still showing signs of being hacked after you have updated the software and removed unrecognized apps then there may be hidden malware that you cannot find. In this case, it is recommended to completely wipe the device and begin fresh. This will remove all of your data and apps so this should be a last-ditch effort. If you choose to do this then navigate to settings and select the factory data reset option.

Real world iPhone hack examples

In 2017, there was an iPhone hack that became very annoying for people who were browsing the web. Websites would deliver a popup notification that disabled the browser until users paid money to hackers in the form of gift cards. Apple updated its software to prevent this in the future, which goes to show the importance of keeping up with iOS updates as Apple releases them.

Another popular iPhone hack targeted jailbroken devices and was delivered via apps in the Cydia App Store for jailbroken iPhones. This meant the apps could not be verified by Apple and, therefore, were loaded with adware that served users popups after downloading the infected apps.

Resources

There are some great resources you can use to protect your smartphone from hacking and data loss.

One important tool that users should be using on their smartphone, as well as other devices, is a password generator and manager. Services like 1Password can generate incredibly complex passwords and store them for you so you never have to remember them. With complex passwords, it is almost impossible for hackers to guess your password using common phrases, names, or numbers.

A VPN is another essential tool for protecting yourself from hacking. On open Wi-Fi networks, in particular, hackers are able to actively monitor data that is passing over the network and steal the information you are sending out. A VPN encrypts the data you are sending and makes it impossible for hackers to see what is actually being sent. Services like ExpressVPN offer mobile apps to protect your smartphone.

While smartphone viruses are somewhat rare, they are still out there. Having a trusted antivirus solution available to you can be a nice extra layer of security. Avast makes an Android app that can manage antivirus scans. The paid version even introduces a password manager as well as a VPN for those who want to simplify their life and bring multiple security tools into one package.

One of the most effective ways to protect your smartphone is by installing a complex PIN or password and turning on biometric security like fingerprint scanning. The more difficult it is for someone to log into your device, the more secure your information will be.

Two-factor authentication is another must-have security solution. Using apps like Google Authenticator can help you lock down sensitive apps like email, banking, and more. This app generates a code when you wish to log in. Even if hackers were to have access to your passwords for your mobile apps or services, they cannot log in without the two-factor authentication code. Whenever possible, you should consider enabling two-factor authentication.