Author: Geek Computer
Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What Happens When a Site I Use Gets Hacked?

Category: Security

In the Internet’s virtual world, security is very confusing as compared to the real world. Security is messy; difficult to develop and sustain. As much as the Internet is built around a system of protocols, these rules can often be ignored. 


When the security of the website you use gets breached, a malicious intruder has gained access to sensitive data. This leaves your information vulnerable to theft or misuse. The number of damages incurred will depend on the kind of data stored on the site. If the site deals with financial information or online money transactions, the damages are bound to be higher. The amount of sensitive information we leave around the internet, either unconsciously or consciously, is used by attackers against us. 

The Aftermath of Being Hacked

What Happens When a Site I Use Gets Hacked?

If a website you use is hacked, many consequences exist that one has to endure. As a user, the fate of your data should be of your utmost concern. Assuming the personal data stored on the website is unencrypted, it is likely that the cybercriminal already has access to it. 


Once your data falls into the hands of cybercriminals, you are likely to be an identity theft victim. Hackers can use your credentials, such as your address, name, social security number, or email address, without any consensual agreement. The damages of identity theft can be severe, plus it can happen to anybody. For example, your data can be used to apply for loans or purchase illegal items. 


Hackers are also known to steal the private information of users and ask for a ransom. This is known as a ransomware attack. The hackers encrypt or move the stolen data and ask for a ransom to restore access to it. If a ransom is not being charged, your data might be more valuable to someone else- meaning it can be sold. On the other hand, it can be circulated publicly or privately and be used for social engineering attacks and password attacks. Regardless, your data will end up falling into the wrong hands. 


Sometimes, cybercriminals may decide to infiltrate a website and use it to store files, such as pirated content and illegal content. They will then run those files using the site’s server. This will have a huge impact on the website's speed, making it lose its visitors and SEO rankings. Search engine algorithms consider a site’s speed during rankings. Therefore, websites that have slow speeds receive penalties and end up getting lower ranks. 


Hacker activity can lead to the complete crashing of a website. Have you ever tried visiting a site you constantly frequent only to be hit by a “Page Not Found - 404 error” message? It is a sign that the website was hacked. If a website is under construction or modification by a developer, temporary crashes are normal. However, a 404 error message on a blank white screen is not normal. Cybercriminals break into sites and modify information to make them crash. This will terminate any traffic going to the website. 


Last but not least, the reputation of a site that has been hacked will dwindle and eventually die. When customers' financial data gets stolen and personal data used for identity theft, legal actions can easily ensue. Many customers will lose their data and money and file a case against the site due to frustration. 


Methods Used to Attack Websites

The rates of cybercrime have significantly increased due to the lucrative environment that the Internet presents. Consumers, businesses, and governments all use the Internet to perform billions of dollars worth of transactions daily. Cybercriminals employ several tools and techniques to breach website security and tap into these resources. Knowing the different techniques used to perform cyber attacks can prepare you to deal with malicious attacks. 


  1. Denial of Service (Dos/DDoS)


DDoS attacks overwhelm the servers and cause them to crash. This is as a result of hackers flooding a website with large amounts of Internet traffic. DDoS attacks are mostly carried out by computers that have been infected by malware. The owners of these computers could be completely unaware that their device is being used to send data requests to a website. 


  1. Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection


This is the most used hacking technique used by cybercriminals. SQL is used for most websites to interact with databases. It allows the website to delete, create, update, and retrieve database records. SQL is used for numerous reasons, from storing internet transactions to website user login permissions. 


To perform an attack, a cybercriminal places an SQL command in a website and attempts to run it. A good example would be to type 1=1 or ‘ in a password or username field. If the application appends the string to a SQL command designed to check a user's existence in the database, it will return a ‘true’ result. This result can later be used to try and infiltrate parts of the website that have been restricted. Using other SQL injection attacks, cybercriminals can delete from (and insert new data in) a database. Sometimes, automated tools can be used by hackers on remote sites to perform SQL injections. These tools can be used to scan thousands of sites and look for vulnerable ones. Examples of these tools include SQLMap, BBSQL, and SQL. 


  1. Domain Name Server (DNS) Spoofing


It is also known as DNS cache poisoning. Cybercriminals use this technique to inject corrupt DNS records used to redirect website traffic to a fake site that resembles the original one. Affected users will then be requested to log in to their account (from the fake website), giving hackers the chance to steal the information that is keyed in. In addition, the fake site is often rigged with malware; this way, hackers get long-term access by infecting many devices. Some of the methods used to carry out DNS spoofing attacks include a man in the middle (MITM) and DNS server compromise. 

What Happens When a Site I Use Gets Hacked?

  1. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cybercriminals often exploit Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in website hacking. Based on the way it works, it is considered to be the most challenging vulnerability to encounter. However, large global websites such as Google and Microsoft have successfully dealt with XSS attacks. 

Javascript scripts that have been planted in hyperlinks are used to perform XSS hacking attacks. Users who click the link get their personal information stolen, accounts taken over, web sessions hijacked, or the advertisements displayed on the page changed. Additionally, hackers often plant these links into social media websites, web forums, and many other renowned locations where users can be tempted to click them. 

  1. Cross-site Request Forgery (CSRF or XSRF)

This type of attack takes place when a web application receives unauthorized commands from a trusted user. For example, it happens when a user is logged into the website. When logged in, users usually have high levels of privileges- attackers can use this chance to steal account information, transfer funds, or obtain sensitive information. 

Image tags, hidden forms, and AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript) are some of the methods used by attackers to send forged commands. Users are unaware of the sent commands, and the website believes the received commands are authentic. XSS and CSRF attacks are different. For a CSRF attack to work, users should be logged in and be trusted by a website.

Protecting Yourself from Hackers

Understanding the tactics used by hackers to penetrate website security is an important step. This way, you will know how to protect yourself from them. Internet security is comprehensive. First, however, I will cover a few key methods that are essential.

First, your passwords need to be in order. You need to choose passwords with at least eight characters, making sure to use a combination of special keys to make it harder to crack. Using the same password across different platforms is a bad habit; don’t do it. Once a hacker gets the password to one of your accounts, it will be easy for them to create the same havoc in your other accounts. You can also use a password manager that sets strong passwords, stores them, and changes them regularly. This will help improve your network security. 

Another easy method would be using a Web Application Firewall (WAF). A WAF is used to detect malware and monitor the activities of a website to mitigate malicious attacks. For example, WordPress websites use a WAF called DreamHost. If you own a site, setting up a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is recommended. This way, the data between the user and the server is kept more secure from hackers during transmission. Moreover, search engines rank SSL-certified sites higher. Therefore, apart from the protection you receive, your site will gain more visibility. 

Lastly, practice caution as well as common-sense while using the internet. Taking the necessary security measures should not make you lax with your internet usage. If a link seems suspicious, do not click it. Be sure to scan all your attachments before downloading them and avoid visiting suspicious websites. 


Cybercriminals can easily breach the rules making up the system of protocols meant to govern the internet. When a hacker gains access to a site you use, it means that sensitive data has been acquired. This data can either be used for identity theft, ransom attacks, social engineering attacks, or password attacks, among others. Cybercriminals can lead to the defacing of a site and the loss of its reputation. Some of the tactics used by hackers to hack websites are SQL injection, DNS Spoofing, DoS attacks, Cross-Site Scripting, and Cross-Site Request Forgery. Using strong passwords, web application firewalls, and SSL certificates (for site owners), you can easily mitigate malicious attacks. 

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