In today’s world, your information is everywhere: in your email, on Facebook, on IoT devices, and more. But keeping that information private is a challenge.

Our Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is a prime target for cybercriminals. It can be weaponized for fraudulent activities, identity theft, and unsolicited communications when compromised. Navigating these digital intricacies requires expertise. With professional guidance, you can safeguard your information using expert tools such as GuidePoint’s data privacy solutions. Dive deeper into the predominant threats of data breaches and the principles of adept incident response at our complimentary virtual event.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is the most common way hackers access company systems and data. It involves impersonating someone to obtain confidential information like logins and passwords. It is often accomplished by posing as an authority figure, such as the government or upper management. It can also be done through emails, phone calls, or even physically gaining access to a business.

The infamous con artist Frank Abagnale is considered one of the masters of this technique of his time. He used various methods to impersonate people and steal checks, money, and other valuables. He could do it through his charm and the trusting nature of his victims. This method can also be done by phishing email, where a hacker sends an email that looks legitimate and asks the recipient to click on a link or download something, which could then install malware.

Another method of social engineering is tailgating, where a hacker follows a person with authorized access into a building and then gains access to the company’s systems by claiming to be helping that individual. Companies need to have regular penetration testing that includes simulated social engineering attacks. It can help a company understand its vulnerabilities and identify employees needing more security awareness training. The best way to prevent social engineering is to be cautious about sharing personal details online. For example, avoid sharing the name of your high school or pet, as it could give away an answer to a security question that can unlock your account.


So, how data breaches happen? The cybercriminals who attack you or your business may use malware to get your data. Malware is malicious software that exploits or harms programmable networks and devices, including computers, smartphones, TVs, smartwatches, and your home security system.

Once a hacker has your personal information, they use it in many ways to profit from the stolen data. They could apply for loans or credit cards, file false tax returns, or spam you with junk mail. PII is the most common type of information hackers steal. Still, they also use it to gain access to your accounts (like online banking and billing), your physical address, and other details that can lead to identity theft.

Whether the attacker is after your private information or your business’s sensitive information, they will use malware to gain access. Cybercriminals craft, buy, or rent malware that infiltrates computer systems and harvests passwords, files, and login information. They deliver this malware through emails, links, online ads, or by slipping it onto your device in an instant message or pop-up. The malware then searches your computer for passwords, snatches screenshots of your device’s screen, logs your keystrokes, and sends this information back to its servers.

Sometimes, the hackers will sell or publish the information on the dark web to earn a profit. In other cases, they will hold the data hostage until you pay a ransom.


PII and passwords are the most valuable assets hackers can gain access to. They can use stolen information to create fake identities or cause financial damage, such as by purchasing goods on credit cards that have been charged fraudulently.

Attackers often phish victims by sending them emails that appear to come from a trusted institution, such as their bank or their school. They usually emphasize a sense of urgency to trick the victim into handing over their login credentials. For example, they may say their account will be suspended, or money lost if they don’t give them the information in a certain amount of time.

Other attacks involve a more targeted approach, like spear phishing. Here, attackers use information about their targets, such as their names, job titles, and interests, to craft convincing messages that are more likely to work.

Once the hackers have gained unauthorized access to your data, they can sell it to data brokers or use it for corporate espionage. They can also use it to manipulate your behavior, such as by stealing personal information from social media accounts to take control of your finances or using data about medical histories at hospitals to commit insurance fraud.


Hacking is a highly technical and dangerous activity that can give cybercriminals access to your organization’s data, systems, or computers. It is more than just the stereotypical lone rogue programmer in their bedroom. It is a highly sophisticated multibillion-dollar industry that uses stealthy attack methods to avoid detection by cybersecurity software and other systems.

Hackers can take advantage of many types of errors by employees, such as sharing login credentials, storing sensitive information in unsecured locations, misplacing devices with confidential data, accidentally granting overly-privileged privileges to network users or IT personnel, and the like. Moreover, hackers can use various tools, including malware, social engineering, cloud misconfigurations, privilege misuse, insecure websites, and more, to access your firm’s data.

Generally speaking, hackers have two main motivations: money and ego. Hackers seeking monetary rewards typically fall into the black hat category, while those that view hacking as an art form and sport are referred to as white hats.

Other motives for hacking include corporate espionage, such as stealing trade secrets from competitors or interfering with elections or other governmental functions. Additionally, hacktivists may be motivated by political or social causes and seek revenge on individuals or organizations that wronged them. For example, the hacktivist group Anonymous was particularly well known for exposing government documents and leading digital crusades in support of various political or social causes.


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