Protecting yourself in a highly digitized society: common types of hacking and ways to prevent them


RJ Doroshewitz

A Dell motherboard, lacking any other components, sits on the floor. December 6, 2022.

Technology is increasingly prevalent in the modern era, ranging from smartphones allowing for distant communications to gaming and social media content providing entertainment. It has become a vital part of today’s society as computers and servers become obligatory in operating businesses, providing governmental services and storing private information. However, for such technology to function computers must be networked over the internet, which inevitably exposes the devices and the private information contained within them to potential hackers. With cyber dangers running rampant, how can users protect themselves?

Hacking can take many forms, each of which requires a different method to defend against. 

Damages caused by hacking add up to a lot. 105 cyber-attack incidents causing over $1,000,000 in damages each were reported in 2019, an increase of 400% since 2009.


Phishing—a form of social hacking that exploits the technological unawareness of the user—is the most common malicious hacking technique. 

For example, one may receive an email from an unfamiliar address with the title “URGENT: INSTAGRAM PASSWORD STOLEN BY HACKERS RESET NOW,” with accompanying text instructing the user to click on a provided link claiming to be a password reset link from the social media company. 

The user then proceeds with the instructions by clicking on the link, which opens a fake, unofficial webpage prompting the user to enter their password. Once the password is entered, nothing will happen—the webpage turns out to be a fake that just stole the user’s login information. 

How can this be prevented? 

One should never open a link without knowing if it leads to a safe website or not. Users should always start by checking the domain name of the link: would be a fake website with a fake domain imitating 

Users can also check the phone number or email address that was used to contact them and search to see if it is the official contact information of the service. 


Viruses are another common form of hacking technique. A virus will often take the form of legitimate-looking executable programs which, when launched, will bypass system securities and enter the user’s computer to corrupt files, obtain personal data and even take over the system. 

For example, one may try to download a video game promising to be a free version of one that typically costs money. After proceeding with the installation process and allowing the software “change and modify” permissions on your computer, the computer’s desktop files may suddenly disappear, with the screen soon turning black. A virus has penetrated the computer’s Operating System (OS), and the unsuspecting victim just lost all of their user data. 

How can this be prevented?

First of all, configuring firewalls on home computers is a must. Although modern firewalls and antivirus software are strong, new vulnerabilities may be discovered over time, making it important to always install any updates and patches to firewall programs designed to adapt to newfound vulnerabilities. 

Additionally, software should always be installed from official, manufacturer-certified websites, rather than third-party download sites. 

Password cracking

Password cracking is another form of hacking that can easily be prevented. As the name suggests, password cracking is the illegitimate acquisition of passwords, often through guess and check protocols. This process can be substantially sped up using the computational power of a computer, which can automate guesses of each possible combination of characters in a process known as brute-forcing. 

How can this be prevented?

The simple answer is to make the passwords stronger. Password security can be improved through increased length and increased variation of types of characters. For every additional character added to the password, the number of possible combinations, and thus the difficulty in cracking it, grows exponentially. Furthermore, by using a mix of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and special characters, each additional character will dramatically increase the difficulty of cracking it. Avoid using common words and phrases in passwords, and never make them “password123.” 


Although our world increasingly becomes efficient and expressive through the internet and virtual social networks, so do vulnerabilities for data leaks and privacy. We must increase our internet awareness to continue using technology as a useful, reliable service.