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How Hackers Operate

Hackers in movies and TV shows are often shown as techie loners, cracking codes to access secret data. In reality, most hackers target companies, not individuals, to steal as much personal data as possible for financial gain or to sell on the dark web. This often starts with getting a single password.

Hackers don't care whose data they get; they want it from as many people as possible. That's why they target large businesses with many customers. Their goal is to find a weak link in security, like an unlocked door, and once they're in, they grab as much personal information as they can.

Once they have the data, they either use it themselves or sell it. You might not notice anything wrong with your bank or online accounts right away, but small, strange transactions can be a sign that your details have been compromised.

Any stolen data, such as credit card numbers, social security IDs, or PINs, can lead to identity theft or financial loss. Email addresses and passwords are also valuable. Hackers can use access to an email account to get into other accounts by resetting passwords or because many people use the same password for multiple sites.

Even just a list of email addresses is valuable. Hackers can try logging into popular sites with common passwords. This is called brute-forcing, where scripts try thousands of password combinations every second. Here are some tips for creating strong passwords:

Avoid simple substitutions: Changing letters to symbols (like 5ymb0|) isn’t secure enough. Don’t just add numbers: Adding a number to the end of a password is easy to guess. Never use obvious passwords: Passwords like ‘password’ or ‘123456’ are very weak. Avoid common names and phrases: Hackers use scripts to guess popular phrases and names. Don’t use single dictionary words: Use phrases or sentences instead. Avoid patterns: Simple sequences like 123abc or qwerty are easily guessed.

Follow these tips to create strong passwords and better protect your data from hackers.

Some people think they aren't targets for identity theft because they have nothing to steal. However, cyber-criminals can still open new accounts or apply for loans in your name, harming your credit rating even if they get refused. They can also access your friends and family once they gain access to your email. It's crucial to stay secure online, starting with strong passwords.