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Written by Hitachi Systems Security on 4 February 2022

How do Hackers Protect Themselves?

Protecting your privacy online is a top concern for businesses, government institutions, and individuals. When you’re strategizing how to keep your systems and data secure, chances are – you’re trying to keep them secure from hackers. But how do hackers keep their own identity, systems and data secure online? And what can other organizations learn from this?

Although no system is perfect, hackers often use some or all the below strategies to defend their information online:

They use VPNs

Connecting directly to the internet is a risk for hackers who need to stay anonymous. But using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can mitigate this. Although VPNs slow down your internet connection, the trade-off is worth it. They can protect your privacy in a few material ways:

  • VPNs hide your internet history from your internet service provider
    They protect your data on public wi-fi networks from other users on the same network
    VPNs give you access to websites that your ISP or the government may block. Ever wanted to access different TV streaming options in another country? A VPN could help you with this.

Some countries that want to discourage VPN usage, such as Russia, have blocked providers in the past, so using a VPN could be tricky depending on your location.

Hackers Eschew Social Media

Social media has been essential in helping many people stay connected, especially during the pandemic. But these benefits come with risks. Users who think they are relatively private may be sharing a lot more than they think. Although this information may seem harmless, it can compromise privacy. Have you ever used a pet’s name or your wedding anniversary date in a password? You’ve likely shared this information through social media before.

Aside from offering clues to your passwords, sharing on social media can compromise your physical security. Your posts might be giving hints about your home address or your child’s school name. Sharing vacation pictures could even make you more vulnerable to home invasions. Knowing how other black hats use social engineering to get your personal information, hackers stay far away from sharing on social media.

They Use Tor

Tor gives you way more privacy than simply using the incognito function on your browser. Going “incognito” doesn’t save your browsing history directly on the application on your device. But it doesn’t prevent your activity from being shared with your internet service provider or with the website you’re browsing.

Tor is a free, open-source software that helps users communicate anonymously on the internet. Malicious hackers don’t typically hack just for fun – it’s their business. They often re-sell the information they steal from you, but you can’t exactly do this over Etsy. Hackers privately access the dark web using Tor to sell their wares.

However, the dark web isn’t wholly sinister. Human rights activists and journalists often use Tor to protect sensitive sources or communicate securely with people in dangerous regions.

Hackers use Cryptocurrency – But With Some Healthy Skepticism

While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies don’t keep you completely anonymous, they add another layer of privacy for people who want to stay hidden, like hackers. Transactions made through a traditional banking system are inextricably linked to your identity. Enter cryptocurrency – the medium of exchange of choice for many hackers.

Cryptocurrency can be traced – investigating transactions can be onerous. And you don’t need to use a legal name or register with a bank to send or receive bitcoin. However, regulation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is increasing significantly, and this will likely lessen its outsider appeal and practical applications to hackers.

They don’t share their real contact information

Two-factor authentication is often used to keep hackers from accessing your personal information. But for hackers, using their real contact information is too risky. Hackers use burner phones, multiple dummy email addresses, and truly encrypted messaging services like Signal to maintain privacy. However, even Signal has its vulnerabilities, so hackers will still use Tor in combination with Signal.

So does all of this really keep hackers hidden?

There isn’t one tool that can provide complete peace of mind when protecting your privacy. But using several in tandem dramatically increases your probability of staying anonymous on the web.

Now that you’ve read about how hackers stay protected online, don’t miss our interview with a hacker we wrote about earlier this year. You’ll learn the surprising ways hackers infiltrate your company both online AND offline.

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