How do Hackers Access a Company's Network?

Last Updated: 

May 13, 2024

With one cyberattack every 39 seconds, the online world is far from secure. Tech evolves rapidly, as does its security, but hackers are constantly surpassing themselves, devising cunning ways to gain access to company data.

Avoiding system breaches as a business owner relies on robust cybersecurity and educating users to understand the latest hacking methods.

Here, we will discuss some of the most common hacker techniques and explain some preventative measures to safeguard your company data and bolster network security.

Key Takeaways on Protecting Your Company from Hackers

  1. Phishing Attacks: Educate employees to recognise fraudulent emails and implement email filtering and authentication techniques to prevent phishing attempts.
  2. Password Hacking: Use multi-factor authentication and enforce strong password policies to mitigate credential theft and brute-force attacks.
  3. Unpatched Software Vulnerabilities: Regularly update security patches and scan for vulnerabilities to prevent exploitation of known weaknesses.
  4. Internal Threats: Assign access privileges appropriately and monitor employee data access to mitigate risks from internal errors or unauthorised actions.
  5. Connecting with Remote Devices: Implement mobile device management and VPN encryption for secure remote connections, reducing the risk of data interception.
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1. Phishing Attacks

The most common security threat in the U.S. is a phishing attack. The goal is to coax sensitive information from an individual through deception.

Often, this is done through an email that appears to have been sent by a legitimate source such as a bank or government agency.

Usually, the email contains links that redirect the reader to a fake website that again seems genuine enough to convince the user to give the information freely.

For example, a hacker sends a company employee an email that gives the impression of being from the IT department. The employee sees no reason but to comply when asked for their log-in credentials via the provided link.

Preventative Measures:

  • Educate your employees with regular training. Teach them how to recognise a fraudulent email, get them to verify the source, and stay sceptical.
  • Filter company emails to block spam and use an authentication technique such as DMARC, SPF, or DKIM to check sources and ensure email content hasn’t been altered during transit.

2. Password Hacking and Credential Theft

Phishing is one way that hackers gain the credentials of others for identity theft and unauthorised access. The other method is via brute-force attacks. This is a method by which the hackers systematically try all possible password combinations. Passwords are also obtained from other breached sites, such as a third party that previously held some of your credentials within their data.

For example, hackers try to access your company systems using stolen credentials from an already breached site.

Preventative Measures:

  • Multi-factor authentication introduces secondary measures, this means that a password obtained doesn’t grant instant access. Two-step verification is recommendable for businesses for added security.
  • Using strong, unique passwords that combine letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols can make brute-force attacks trickier and take hackers longer to achieve, giving your company more time to notice the failed attempts. This should be made company policy.

3. Unpatched Software Vulnerabilities

Surprisingly, many cyber-attacks are caused by already detected weaknesses in unpatched software. These vulnerabilities are easy for hackers to exploit, allowing them to infiltrate systems undetected.

For example, your company hasn’t updated security software in a while and is, therefore, operating without a critical patch that addressed a recent vulnerability. Hackers breach your network as a result

Preventative Measures:

  • Make sure you regularly update security patches
  • Scan for vulnerabilities: you can do this manually or use software that automates and helps to prioritise the fixes

4. Internal Threats

Lapses in judgement by employees can risk your company; this can be human error, or one employee trusting another with admin-level access that they shouldn't have.

For example, an employee takes sensitive data home to catch up on work and meet a deadline. The work is downloaded to an unsecured drive that gets lost or stolen.

Preventative Measures:

  • Assign your employees with different level access privileges.
  • Monitor the data access of employees.

5. Connecting With Remote Devices

Times have changed, and we work far more remotely than ever before. Remote collaboration requires connecting to company networks with personal mobile phones, laptops, and other devices, giving hackers further opportunities to exploit. Companies must take measures to secure all endpoints of their networks.

For example,  employees connect to your company network using public Wi-Fi, and unbeknownst to them the data transmitted is intercepted by hackers.

Preventative Measures:

  • Mobile device management should be used to strengthen security.
  • Remote device connections should use a VPN to encrypt traffic and transmission.

Identifying Hacking Attempts

Learning to spot the warning signs of a hacking attempt can lessen the repercussions.

Fortunately, there are some tell-tale indicators to look out for. Recognising them can help bring peace of mind instead of leaving you wondering has my phone been hacked, is my company secure?

1. Unusual Activity

Unexpected patterns in your network traffic, such as large data transfers, are often signs that something fishy is afoot. Unexpected data transfers are usually an indicator of data exfiltration.

2. Dubious Login Activity

Multiple failed login attempts, especially from unfamiliar locations and unrecognised devices, are also a big cause for concern.

3. Performance Problems

When malware is running in the background of your devices, it will affect your system’s overall performance. Unusual behaviour, such as slow-loading, is an important sign to look out for.

4. System Configuration Changes

File permissions updates and system changes could also point to a potential breach in your company’s network.

Parting Advice

Understanding how hackers get into a network enables you to identify potential breach signs and hacking attempts. This leads to a better response that can ultimately help mitigate the risks.

Companies can protect their networks from within by addressing the most common hacking techniques one by one head-on.

Adequate employee training ensures best practices are followed. Measures such as strong password policies and multi-factor authentication, along with access privilege management and regular patch updates, can help level the playing field.

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