Search

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

Social engineering, as per Wikipedia, is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. In simpler terms, social engineering is taking advantage of a victim’s natural tendencies and emotional reactions. Social engineering is more interesting than it sounds! It involves various techniques including tricking the victim into sharing the OTP, Debit Card PIN, or their computer passwords. There have been attacks in the past where the attacker simply called up the data center, posing as a high-ranking official of the company, and manipulated the data center administrator into telling him the exact models of the servers residing in the data center.  Social engineering can be done at various steps of hacking, but typically, it is done at the time of information gathering or the reconnaissance phase. In the above example, the attacker may have likely got the server details like model number and maybe the operating system running on it. Once the attacker has this basic information, it is very easy to find the vulnerabilities in the OS and hardware using online sources like NVD (National Vulnerabilities Database) and CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures by Mitre). In this article, we will briefly look at what is ethical hacking to set the context for social engineering, various steps of ethical hacking and then take a deep dive into various techniques of social engineering. We will have a look at some recent data breaches where social engineering was used and finally some tips to safeguard your organization and yourself from social engineering attacks. What is ethical hacking? Hacking is a word which raises eyebrows every time someone mentions it. A hacker is not a person with a hoodie, sitting in a dark room, with multiple screens in front of him. That is what we see in the movies, right? In real life, a hacker is an individual with deep domain expertise of the domain he works in. So a cyber hacker is a person with deep domain expertise on computers and related infrastructure like networks, servers, etc.  Hacking a cyber system would involve overcoming the security mechanisms deployed to protect the confidential data by exploiting various vulnerabilities present in the system or network and gaining unauthorized access to the confidential information.Steps of hacking To understand social engineering, we need to first understand the various steps of hacking. Any hacker would follow these steps in order to successfully penetrate a system. Reconnaissance or Foot printing – As defined and used for military purposes, reconnaissance is the activity of gathering information about an area using soldiers, planes, etc. Similar to that, reconnaissance in hacking means gathering all the information about your target which you would use in the next steps of hacking. This step lays the foundation for your attack. More the information, easier the attack will be. Reconnaissance could be active or passive in nature. Active reconnaissance would involve the attacker scanning the network and websites of the target organization or individual directly. However, in the passive reconnaissance, the attacker would never get in direct touch with the target and would use various “social engineering” techniques to gather information. Scanning – After the attacker has some basic details, he or she starts scanning the network and websites of the target much more intensively and gathers information like active hosts, OS running on them, open ports and others which could be used to launch an attack. Gaining Access – Now the attacker has a lot of information like the IP ranges, key people of the organization, OS running on key servers, active hosts. The attacker will now use techniques to deliver a payload (the actual virus or a malicious code) to get into the network of the target. This is generally done by using some social engineering techniques like phishing. Maintaining Access – This is the next step when the attacker has the access to the network and the system, and would now make sure that he has a persistent access to the resources. He would generally do this by creating a backdoor, which no one else is aware of. This backdoor will ensure that even if the main gate has been closed by the target, there is a back gate which he could use to maintain the access to the compromised system. Covering tracks – Once the attacker is in the system and has access to all the data, his next step would be to remain undetected and anonymous. This would generally be done by deleting the logs and using a VPN or a Virtual Private Network to access the target network and systems. Taking a deeper dive into Social Engineering As we briefly discussed in the sections above, Social Engineering is getting information from the target by manipulating them. However, information gathering and social engineering goes hand in hand. Throughout this section, we will have a look at various techniques to gather information about an organization via online tools and social engineering methods. Who.is – You have a website name and you want to know all the basic details of the website, you can simply visit who [dot] is. You get the following details here: Name of the registrant Address and contact information Expiry date of the domain registration Name servers Registrar information Server type  With all this information, you will at least know the contact number and the address of company where the domain is registered. Command Prompt (Terminal for Linux users) – You must be thinking why we are talking about a Windows utility. Try and do this on command prompt, “ping knowledgehut.com”. What do you see? 4 packets sent, 4 received, but you got the IP address of the website. This is a very useful information when you are targeting an organization. Cisco Talos – Cisco Talos is a utility from Cisco and has many different components. For now, we would be focusing on the “IP Reputation” center. It helps you find the reputation of a domain or an IP address. Now how does this help in hacking? The answer is simple, once you have the IP address from the above step, you can now look at who this IP belongs to and mostly you will find the details of the platform where the website is hosted.Fake email domains or fake mailers – This is a very interesting process. You can actually send a mail from any email! Yes, you read that right. Let’s take an example. You can send a mail to any random person using an ID HR@facebook.com. How cool is that? These fake email domains also give you the liberty of getting a reply on your own mail box by setting up a “reply to” option. These kinds of domains are very widely used in phishing scams and a few of them are not even stopped by well-known email providers like Gmail. Emkei.cz is one such domain which allows you to send a fake mail. This is what the console would look like:  You get an option to choose a name and email ID you want to send an email from. For demonstration purpose, you can use the name Alex Johnson, and the email ID alex.johnson@facebook.com. You get advanced features like “reply to”, priority setting and even encrypting the email. What “reply to” will help us do, is, once the victim (whom we are sending this fake mail for a phishing attempt) replies, we get the mail in a legitimate email box (not a fake one!). This will ensure that the email sent looks like a legitimate mail even though it is a fake and you still get a reply. This fake mailer is largely used by attackers to lure job candidates into sending fake offers from an email ID which looks authentic and seek money for jobs. Attackers can also send a legitimate looking mail from the company HR and ask the users to fill in sensitive information. Temp Mailers – This is another tool on the internet widely used by attackers. This utility allows anyone to create a “temporary” email, which is valid for a very short duration (10 mins to 30 mins, depending on the website). You get an email address with a temporary inbox. People also use this to register on different websites where they do not want any promotional material landing in their personal mail boxes. Temp-mail.org is one such domain, you can find hundreds of such domains online. Social Media – Are we forgetting the social media? Social media gives you the maximum amount of information you want about an individual. You must be thinking how? Let us look at an example:  What all information did you get to know about Anne from this image?  Possible passwords,  maxthedog,  alexandrichard,  smith,  03181918;  Possible security questions and answers (remember setting up a few security questions in your bank account or even FB account?) Pet name: Max Best Friend: John Date of Birth: 18 Mar 1981 Maiden Name: Smith Address: from the link! When is the house vacant: 18th March 2016, Half term Other miscellaneous information: changing house, marital status (divorced), two sons, etc. Now you understand the humongous amount of information we have on our social media. Not to forget our regular social media updates, be it on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Telegram or WhatsApp! Fake Calling – Something very common these days, where you get a call from a person posing to be a bank official. They generally try to get the OTP or the One Time Password from you, Credit card or Debit card PIN or CVV. This is among the most common types of social engineering attacks and is commonly referred to as phishing attacks. They are categorized as frauds under law. Phishing – Where we are the weakest link Phishing, as defined by Wikipedia, is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. It is generally done by using one or more techniques we discussed above. Let us take a few examples: Sending a fake mail, looking just like a bank email. It will generally ask you to click on a link and redirects you to a web page. This web page would look exactly like the Bank Page and you would be asked to enter your user ID and password. Now this being a fake page would either give an error message or redirect you to the authentic website after you enter your user ID and password. In the backend, the attacker gets the login credentials for your bank portal. Similar to this are lottery mails you get, in which every day you win $10,000. Cybersquatting is a fraudulent act of registering, selling or using a domain name which has resemblance to a known brand with an intent of profiting using the name of the already established brand. For example, creating a website goggle.com which is similar to google.com. This could have a serious impact if you register a website as annazon.com (notice the double n) instead of amazon.com. They look alike in the first glance. Now imagine 20% of the traffic of amazon.com going on annazon.com. It’s a huge loss for Amazon! Sending SMS on mobiles with links to upgrade the PayTM app or entering a lucky draw or even changing your “expiring” bank account. These links will either ask the victim to enter some confidential information like banking details or OTP or install an app or a software in the background. Now the installed app or software is designed to spy on the victim’s mobile device and send confidential information like SMS, photos, bank credentials, etc. to the attacker. Can we do anything about it? Simple answer is, not much. Social engineer, as the title of the article says, talks about exploiting the weakest link in security, which is us or the user. Unless the user is vigilant and aware, no amount of investment in the security tools and technologies can save the organization or the individual data from hackers. Organizations generally run Information Security Awareness campaigns, mandate the user to attend trainings, and even carry out phishing assessments. This gives the organization a direction to enhance its security program and train users to be better protected against cyber threats. As a part of this article, let us have a look at how we can detect a fake email. Email header analysis helps us identify whether the mail is authentic or not. It is very simple to analyze an email header in Gmail. 1. Open the email for which you want to analyze the header. Click on “Show Original” as shown below in the image.  2. Copy the header to clip board.  3. Open and paste the header.4. Click on analyze header. You will get all the details like email domain, sender, who will get the replies, SPF values, etc. Now you can actually know whether a mail was sent by an authentic domain or by a fake mailer service like emkei.cz! Recent attacks including social engineering fThe Sony Pictures Hack – November 2014 Target Data Breach – 2013 (Phishing) 2016 Democratic National Committee Email Leak – July 2016 (Spear Phishing) Associated Press Twitter Accounts – April 2013 (fake email) RSA SecurID Cybersecurity Attack – March 2011 (infected attachment in email) Concluding remarks Social engineering, coupled with information gathering is one of the easiest and efficient way of doing reconnaissance. Attackers make use of these techniques to make sure they are equipped with enough knowledge before they carry out any attack. User awareness and due diligence is the only way to prevent an organization or individual from a social engineering attack.

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

9K
  • by Vatsal Jain
  • 07th Nov, 2020
  • Last updated on 17th Mar, 2021
  • 11 mins read
Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

Social engineering, as per Wikipedia, is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. In simpler terms, social engineering is taking advantage of a victim’s natural tendencies and emotional reactions. Social engineering is more interesting than it sounds! It involves various techniques including tricking the victim into sharing the OTP, Debit Card PIN, or their computer passwords. There have been attacks in the past where the attacker simply called up the data center, posing as a high-ranking official of the company, and manipulated the data center administrator into telling him the exact models of the servers residing in the data center.  

Social engineering can be done at various steps of hacking, but typically, it is done at the time of information gathering or the reconnaissance phase. In the above example, the attacker may have likely got the server details like model number and maybe the operating system running on it. Once the attacker has this basic information, it is very easy to find the vulnerabilities in the OS and hardware using online sources like NVD (National Vulnerabilities Database) and CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures by Mitre). 

In this article, we will briefly look at what is ethical hacking to set the context for social engineering, various steps of ethical hacking and then take a deep dive into various techniques of social engineering. We will have a look at some recent data breaches where social engineering was used and finally some tips to safeguard your organization and yourself from social engineering attacks. 

What is ethical hacking? 

Hacking is a word which raises eyebrows every time someone mentions it. A hacker is not a person with a hoodie, sitting in a dark room, with multiple screens in front of him. That is what we see in the movies, right? In real life, hacker is an individual with deep domain expertise of the domain he works in. So a cyber hacker is a person with deep domain expertise on computers and related infrastructure like networks, servers, etc.  

Hacking a cyber system would involve overcoming the security mechanisms deployed to protect the confidential data by exploiting various vulnerabilities present in the system or network and gaining unauthorized access to the confidential information.

Steps of hacking 

To understand social engineering, we need to first understand the various steps of hacking. Any hacker would follow these steps in order to successfully penetrate a system. 

  1. Reconnaissance or Foot printing – As defined and used for military purposes, reconnaissance is the activity of gathering information about an area using soldiers, planes, etc. Similar to that, reconnaissance in hacking means gathering all the information about your target which you would use in the next steps of hacking. This step lays the foundation for your attack. More the information, easier the attack will be. Reconnaissance could be active or passive in nature. Active reconnaissance would involve the attacker scanning the network and websites of the target organization or individual directly. However, in the passive reconnaissance, the attacker would never get in direct touch with the target and would use various “social engineering” techniques to gather information. 
  1. Scanning – After the attacker has some basic details, he or she starts scanning the network and websites of the target much more intensively and gathers information like active hosts, OS running on them, open ports and others which could be used to launch an attack. 

  1. Gaining Access – Now the attacker has a lot of information like the IP ranges, key people of the organization, OS running on key servers, active hosts. The attacker will now use techniques to deliver a payload (the actual virus or a malicious code) to get into the network of the target. This is generally done by using some social engineering techniques like phishing. 

  1. Maintaining Access – This is the next step when the attacker has the access to the network and the system, and would now make sure that he has a persistent access to the resources. He would generally do this by creating a backdoor, which no one else is aware of. This backdoor will ensure that even if the main gate has been closed by the target, there is a back gate which he could use to maintain the access to the compromised system. 

  1. Covering tracks – Once the attacker is in the system and has access to all the data, his next step would be to remain undetected and anonymous. This would generally be done by deleting the logs and using a VPN or a Virtual Private Network to access the target network and systems. 

Taking a deeper dive into Social Engineering 

As we briefly discussed in the sections above, Social Engineering is getting information from the target by manipulating them. However, information gathering and social engineering goes hand in hand. Throughout this section, we will have a look at various techniques to gather information about an organization via online tools and social engineering methods. 

  • Who.is – You have a website name and you want to know all the basic details of the website, you can simply visit who [dot] is. You get the following details here: 
    • Name of the registrant 
    • Address and contact information 
    • Expiry date of the domain registration 
    • Name servers 
    • Registrar information 
    • Server type  

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

With all this information, you will at least know the contact number and the address of company where the domain is registered. 

  • Command Prompt (Terminal for Linux users)  You must be thinking why we are talking about a Windows utility. Try and do this on command prompt, “ping knowledgehut.com”. What do you see? 4 packets sent, 4 received, but you got the IP address of the website. This is a very useful information when you are targeting an organization. 

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

  • Cisco Talos – Cisco Talos is a utility from Cisco and has many different components. For now, we would be focusing on the “IP Reputation” center. It helps you find the reputation of a domain or an IP address. Now how does this help in hacking? The answer is simple, once you have the IP address from the above step, you can now look at who this IP belongs to and mostly you will find the details of the platform where the website is hosted.

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering


Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

  • Fake email domains or fake mailers – This is a very interesting process. You can actually send a mail from any email! Yes, you read that right. Let’s take an example. You can send a mail to any random person using an ID HR@facebook.com. How cool is that? These fake email domains also give you the liberty of getting a reply on your own mail box by setting up a “reply to” option. These kinds of domains are very widely used in phishing scams and a few of them are not even stopped by well-known email providers like Gmail. Emkei.cz is one such domain which allows you to send a fake mail. This is what the console would look like:  

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

You get an option to choose a name and email ID you want to send an email from. For demonstration purpose, you can use the name Alex Johnson, and the email ID alex.johnson@facebook.com. You get advanced features like “reply to”, priority setting and even encrypting the email. What “reply to” will help us do, is, once the victim (whom we are sending this fake mail for a phishing attempt) replies, we get the mail in a legitimate email box (not a fake one!). This will ensure that the email sent looks like a legitimate mail even though it is a fake and you still get a reply. 

This fake mailer is largely used by attackers to lure job candidates into sending fake offers from an email ID which looks authentic and seek money for jobs. Attackers can also send a legitimate looking mail from the company HR and ask the users to fill in sensitive information. 

  • Temp Mailers – This is another tool on the internet widely used by attackers. This utility allows anyone to create a “temporary” email, which is valid for a very short duration (10 mins to 30 mins, depending on the website). You get an email address with a temporary inbox. People also use this to register on different websites where they do not want any promotional material landing in their personal mail boxes. Temp-mail.org is one such domain, you can find hundreds of such domains online. 

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

  • Social Media – Are we forgetting the social media? Social media gives you the maximum amount of information you want about an individual. You must be thinking how? Let us look at an example:  

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

What all information did you get to know about Anne from this image?  

Possible passwords,  

  1. maxthedog 
  2. alexandrichard 
  3. smith,  
  4. 03181918;  

Possible security questions and answers (remember setting up a few security questions in your bank account or even FB account?) 

  1. Pet name: Max 
  2. Best Friend: John 
  3. Date of Birth: 18 Mar 1981 
  4. Maiden Name: Smith 

Address: from the link! 

When is the house vacant: 18th March 2016, Half term 

Other miscellaneous information: changing house, marital status (divorced), two sons, etc. 

Now you understand the humongous amount of information we have on our social media. Not to forget our regular social media updates, be it on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Telegram or WhatsApp! 

  • Fake Calling – Something very common these days, where you get a call from a person posing to be a bank official. They generally try to get the OTP or the One Time Password from you, Credit card or Debit card PIN or CVV. This is among the most common types of social engineering attacks and is commonly referred to as phishing attacks. They are categorized as frauds under law. 

Phishing – Where we are the weakest link 

Phishing, as defined by Wikipedia, is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. It is generally done by using one or more techniques we discussed above. Let us take a few examples: 

  1. Sending a fake mail, looking just like a bank email. It will generally ask you to click on a link and redirects you to a web page. This web page would look exactly like the Bank Page and you would be asked to enter your user ID and password. Now this being a fake page would either give an error message or redirect you to the authentic website after you enter your user ID and password. In the backend, the attacker gets the login credentials for your bank portal. Similar to this are lottery mails you get, in which every day you win $10,000. 
  1. Cybersquatting is a fraudulent act of registering, selling or using a domain name which has resemblance to a known brand with an intent of profiting using the name of the already established brand. For example, creating a website goggle.com which is similar to google.com. This could have a serious impact if you register a website as annazon.com (notice the double n) instead of amazon.com. They look alike in the first glance. Now imagine 20% of the traffic of amazon.com going on annazon.com. It’s a huge loss for Amazon! 

  1. Sending SMS on mobiles with links to upgrade the PayTM app or entering a lucky draw or even changing your “expiring” bank account. These links will either ask the victim to enter some confidential information like banking details or OTP or install an app or a software in the background. Now the installed app or software is designed to spy on the victim’s mobile device and send confidential information like SMS, photos, bank credentials, etc. to the attacker. 

Can we do anything about it? 

Simple answer is, not much. Social engineer, as the title of the article says, talks about exploiting the weakest link in security, which is us or the user. Unless the user is vigilant and aware, no amount of investment in the security tools and technologies can save the organization or the individual data from hackers. Organizations generally run Information Security Awareness campaigns, mandate the user to attend trainings, and even carry out phishing assessments. This gives the organization a direction to enhance its security program and train users to be better protected against cyber threats. As a part of this article, let us have a look at how we can detect a fake email. 

Email header analysis helps us identify whether the mail is authentic or not. It is very simple to analyze an email header in Gmail. 

1. Open the email for which you want to analyze the header. Click on “Show Original” as shown below in the image.  

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

2. Copy the header to clip board.  

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

3. Open and paste the header.

Exploiting the Weakest Link in Security Through Social Engineering

4. Click on analyze header. You will get all the details like email domain, sender, who will get the replies, SPF values, etc. Now you can actually know whether a mail was sent by an authentic domain or by a fake mailer service like emkei.cz! 

Recent attacks including social engineering 

fThe Sony Pictures Hack – November 2014 

  1. Target Data Breach – 2013 (Phishing) 
  2. 2016 Democratic National Committee Email Leak – July 2016 (Spear Phishing) 
  3. Associated Press Twitter Accounts – April 2013 (fake email) 
  4. RSA SecurID Cybersecurity Attack – March 2011 (infected attachment in email) 

Concluding remarks 

Social engineering, coupled with information gathering is one of the easiest and efficient way of doing reconnaissance. Attackers make use of these techniques to make sure they are equipped with enough knowledge before they carry out any attack. User awareness and due diligence is the only way to prevent an organization or individual from a social engineering attack.

Vatsal

Vatsal Jain

Author

Vatsal Jain is an Information Security professional with close to 3 years of experience. He has worked with multiple MNCs and has exposure in Information Security Auditing, creating and maintaining InfoSec Policies and Procedures, Network Security and Risk Management. He has cracked exams like CISA, CISM and CEH. He also holds certifications like ISO 27001 LA, ITIL Foundation, ISO 22301 LI and AZ-900. He has done B.Tech. in CSE with a specialization in Cyber Security and Forensics.

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggested Blogs

How To Clear CEH in First Attempt?

Cybercrime and hacking attacks are doubling year on year. Not just corporate giants and government entities, but even small scale companies and start-ups are afraid of being victims of cyber theft. Organizations may face major losses not just in their profits but also loss of reputation, data, and customers. Therefore, almost all organizations want to keep their data and privacy of their customers safe from cyber criminals. These organizations spend a fortune on implementing robust technology architecture and on hiring professionals who can identify loopholes in the cyber security systems and patch them up before hackers can get through. These professionals, known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers, can help organizations protect their assets (people, process, and technology) from cybercriminals.Why CEH? The exponential rise in data, and our dependence on virtual systems has also consequently raised attacks from cyber criminals and data breaches. This has made the role of the ethical hacker among the most important job roles in these times. There is a huge demand for cybersecurity experts in almost all types of businesses. To hire security experts, organizations have some basic or minimum benchmarks set. These security experts are expected to have a good understanding of security concepts, and knowledge of the latest tools, processes, and frameworks so that they can be one step ahead of cyber criminals and prevent data breach.  This is where certifications such as the CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker by EC-Council comes into play. The CEH is the most comprehensive program for ethical hackers as it covers the latest hacking trends and familiarises professionals with the technologies that will help prevent data breaches. This international accreditation is recognised world over, so no matter where you are, your skills and knowledge will be considered valid by all organizations, anywhere in the world. To defeat the hacker, you need to think like a hacker. This program is all about developing the hacker mindset but in an ethical way. Once you are ready to jump into this, passing the CEH exam is your 1st milestone in your career. In this article, we will learn how to become a certified ethical hacker in the very first attempt, for which hard work and dedication are highly recommended.  Preparation Steps We will discuss here the 5 steps to prepare for CEH certification.  1. Plan the training Once you decide to achieve the certification, you need a concrete plan for training as well as practice. Choose the best source for training. We highly recommend choosing offline classroom training if you are a student or novice in cybersecurity. Usually, you can complete training in 3-4 months or less.  The reason we recommend an offline course is that meeting other like-minded learners and professionals will help you  develop the ethical hacker mindset. You can get in touch with proper mentors, people with similar mind-sets and take advantage of group study which can reveal many unknown issues, incidents, and examples. Of course, this will cost you more but you can’t learn to swim without getting wet.2. Get your hands dirty – Practice! The plus point of the latest version of CEH v11 is that it is more focused,  practical based and scenario-based with the latest content that equips students with hands-on skills. Remember, security is all about practice and implementation rather than a bunch of documents and do’s and don’ts checklist. In the course of gaining the credential you will learn about methods and tools that you can use to protect the organization such as security implementations, testing, and monitoring. Just bookish knowledge won’t help there. We recommend that spending at least 2 hours daily practice apart from training will improve your skills dramatically.3. Study Guides  While we did mention above not to be bookish, books are a treasure trove of knowledge and even for clearing the CEH you must do a thorough read of the recommended books.  You can religiously follow study guides and clear your concept on every topic in a very descriptive manner. This will answer all your “What and Why” in terms of cybersecurity and ethical hacking. Of course, this is world-class content and therefore you will get exact definitions, descriptions, and diagrams for almost all topics. We recommend studying at least 1 hour daily to get clear on all topics during the training.  4. Study groups - Community Study groups will polish your knowledge and skills for CEH topics. There are many study groups you can join where you can resolve your queries, clear your doubts, take help to learn something, and help others too. This will help you to stay in the company of like-minded people and you will get to learn fast.  However, it is recommended not to share any personal/sensitive information. Beware of any unknown person who asks for sensitive information like your IP address, location, personal information, or anything apart from CEH courseware.   We recommend making a study group with the people you know who are also attempting the exam. You can take the help of your trainer or mentor to manage this group. Be active and participate in group activities like quizzes or group discussions. 5. Self-assessment Keep learning is the key element of CEH training. Brush up your knowledge for the exam perspective as that is your main goal to become certified. For this, you need to learn how to give the exam and what type of questions are asked. For a second, let’s imagine the scenario of a war. If a new trainee soldier having knowledge of arms and wearing his 15 kgs protective suit jumped into the warzone, do you think he can fight better and save the lives of others without having any practice? Probably not, because he is unaware of war scenarios, combat methods, and ways of attack and defense in real war zones where the situation is uncertain. The same concept applies to CEH exams. You may face a lot of weird-looking or twisted or tricky questions with confusing multiple answers. Therefore, once you are done with your CEH training and you have knowledge of all topics, you need to test it like a mock drill of the war zone.There are many sources available where you can practice the exam questions. This platform will help you to understand the methods to ace the exam questions, and complete them within the required timeframe. Here we are sharing some links to practice for your exams. ( Note: We do not promote any website or any platform here. These links are shared to help students find good options for studying.) CEH ASSESSMENT- EC-CouncilEC-Council® CEH™ Exam PrepCEH practice examApart from this, you can follow blogs, industry experts, and relevant videos for more understanding and guidance.Required soft skills Every job roles needs certain skills apart from the core skills needed to perform on the job. These include soft skills that will help you grow as an individual and as a professional.Be Curious – Be hungry for knowledge and for learning new things and gaining new skills.  Be Enthusiastic - Be enthusiastic and motivated throughout your journey as a hacker and you will be rewarded.  Eliminate the distractions - Avoid time-wasting or non-productive activities during the training like spending time on online games or social media. About the exam After getting trained and completing your practice, it is time for the exam. The CEH exam is a 4 hour exam with 125 multiple choice questions. Check the below link for the exam blueprint to get an idea of the percentage ratio of each module during the CEH exam. Examination centres can be chosen based on your location. Keep your exam code with you. The exam organizers have a process to determine the difficulty rating of each question. For more information, you can check out the EC-Council website and get in touch with your training center.Conclusion So, start your journey on becoming a certified cyber security professional with the CEH course and credential. As with anything else, practice makes perfect and you will become better as an ethical hacker with practice. Work hard and you will definitely achieve your CEH certification at the very first attempt. 
9562
How To Clear CEH in First Attempt?

Cybercrime and hacking attacks are doubling year o... Read More

What Is SQL Injection (SQLi)

In today’s world cyber-attacks are triggered to alter or steal the information of a person or an organization in a huge volume of data. It is very much important to protect the data/database from security related attacks.SQL injection is one of the top trending cyber attack techniques recognized by the world’s top non-profit security foundation OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project). SQL injection attacks are made by inserting or injecting the SQL query input from the client end of the application. In this article, we will learn about the SQL injection, types of attacks using SQL injection and preventive steps.  What is SQL Injection? SQL injection attack is used to insert malicious SQL statements into an entry field for execution. This injection technique is the most common web application hacking attack that allows an attacker to get unauthorised access, commit identity spoofing, tamper, take control or destroy your database. This is an attack that is very simple and easy to carry out even for script kiddies.  As we can see in the above picture, this is the second most common vulnerability that can impact databases. SQL injection flaws occur because of poorly designed web applications that can exploit SQL statements that execute malicious code.  How SQL injection is used is very much dependent on the intention of the hacker. With unauthorized access to a database server, what can attackers do? Here are some examples: Download unauthorized data of a person or an organization Delete/modify data Permanently destroy data/backups Add a virus to a system Alter security Encrypt/steal/alter data and hold it for ransom Publicly shame an organization via a web or social media hack Use data to harm business operations How does SQL injection work? To understand SQL injection, you need to know what SQL is.   SQL – SQL stands for Structured Query Language. This language is mainly developed for interacting with the relational database. For data manipulation, Query is used to insert data, modify the database, or just to access the required data.Image SourceSQL Injection is one of the most vulnerable threats which may exploit the entire database of any private organization or government sector where code is injected in a web page.  An SQL statement will be altered in a manner which goes with ALWAYS TRUE as constraint. (In simple words 1=1  This will be always true) It allows an attacker to view unauthorized data. This might include data belonging to other users, or any other data that the application itself is able to access. An attacker can modify or delete this data, causing persistent changes to the application’s content or behavior.SQL injection TypesThere are a wide variety of SQL injection vulnerabilities, attacks, and techniques, which arise in different situations. Some common SQL injection examples include:Tautologies – Used to Bypass AuthenticationSelect * from USERTable where uid=‘xyz’ and pwd =’x’ or ‘5’=’5’;Union – Used to Extract Data. A different dataset is returned from the Database.  Illegal/Logically Incorrect Queries - Used to Identify injectable parameters.  Piggybacked Queries - Multiple queries are executed without the knowledge of the user which may lead to Database exploitation. Injected queries are added to the normal executable query. Inference - Different responses from the database are cross checked by changing its behavior.  Stored procedure - Injection is done to the stored procedure present in the Database.Common Causes and how to avoid SQL Injection Attack-If we are assuming our application’s code/web forms are well protected against any kind of attack by default, application changes and assumptions that were true in the past or present may not be true in the future and may require additional changes. These assumptions eventually lead to compliance and security auditing failures. Using unsupported or legacy software/code/tools or features may lead to security holes and there could be chances of delay in catching or fixing such issues. Running patched and upgraded versions of code is critical to avoid security exploits. Continuously monitoring for new security vulnerabilities and reacting as needed is an important step towards avoiding unnecessary surprises. Reviewing old code is very important, and timely changes in the code are highly recommended as technologies keeps changing. The versions, functions, and extensions require regular upgrades. Older versions or codes are quite vulnerable and might be unable to maintain the integrity of your application. How to detect SQL injection vulnerabilitiesAs a pentester, you can use two techniques to find SQL injection vulnerabilities with high efficiency - manual and automated testing.Manual Testing During application development there are set of tests performed on each level, that help to detect any SQL injection vulnerability, if it exists. Check with the single ' character ‘ and look for errors or other anomalies. The tester can add some SQL specific syntax into code that can evaluate the original value of the entry point and other values, and check for different responses by the application. Another method is to create a Boolean condition, for example “OR 1=1” and “OR 1=2”, and check again to see if the application response is different.  There are some payloads available that are designed to trigger time delays if executed in SQL query, and you can check if there is any delay in response. Automated TestingThere are many good tools and frameworks available in the market. Here is the list of some of the best tools for SQL injection detection. SQLMap Appsider by Rapid7 Accunetix Wapiti Netsparker etc.How to prevent SQL injection vulnerability? To prevent or avoid SQL injection vulnerability, we must first understand why it occurs, and why it is listed as one of the vulnerabilities in the OWASP top 10.  The SQL injection is so easy to perform, that even a script kiddie can make an attempt.  Another reason is the treasure of critical data that lures the attacker to use SQL injection.  Below is the vulnerable code for SQL injection where the user input is concatenated directly into the query: String query = “;SELECT * FROM products WHERE category = ‘";+ input + "’" Statement statement = connection.createStatement(); ResultSet resultSet = statement.executeQuery(query); Check out the code below that helps to prevents the user input from interfering with the query structure: PreparedStatement statement = connection.prepareStatement("SELECT * FROM products WHERE category = ?");  statement.setString(1, input);  ResultSet resultSet = statement.executeQuery(); Primary recommendations: Use Parameterised queries  Least Privilege Use stored procedures if required White listing the input fields Avoid displaying detailed error messages that are useful to an attacker. It is also important to get patch updates regularly, as every day there are many new vulnerabilities that are found.  It is also recommended to use a Web Application Firewall to protect your application, which can help you to filter and find malicious data.  Where Do We Go Next? It is very important to identify and mitigate this notorious vulnerability and take immediate actions to keep your systems secure. Many skilled attackers are waiting to take advantage of your mistakes, like poor code, so that they can hack into the database. We know this vulnerability is very old but we have to be aware of the outcomes of this type of vulnerability and try to prevent this during the development phase, rather than covering up the liability later.  
7337
What Is SQL Injection (SQLi)

In today’s world cyber-attacks are triggered to ... Read More

The Importance Of PCI ; Data Security Standard (DSS)

As the world moves towards digital means of payments and transactions, there has also been concerns over the security and protection of cardholder information. According to the PCI Security Standards Council, more than 500 million card holder records with confidential information have been breached since 2005. Merchants, who accept digital forms of payments, are at the centre of digital payments, and can become a victim of financial fraud at multiple points, including: • The point-of-sale device or machine • Wireless hotspots • Connected computer or any other device • Transmission of the cardholder data to the service provider. Risk factors According to a business survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, a majority of businesses conduct activities increase the risk of card fraud, including storage of card number, expiration date, any verification code, and customer date. Introduction to Data Security Standard (DSS) The Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a security standard mandatory for organizations that handle payments using cards, issued from major card types including MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. This PCI standard is mandatory for all card brands and is administered by the PCI Security Standards Council. The sole aim of the PCI standards is to protect cardholder data and to reduce card frauds. Objectives The objective of PCI-DSS course is the protection of cardholder data during storage, processing, and transmission. Cardholder account information includes the unique primary account number (PAN) printed in the front of every card. Merchants or any service provider, who process card payments, must never store sensitive information about the transaction after the authorization. This includes confidential data that is stored in the magnetic stripe of the card, along with any personal identification information entered by the cardholder. Requirements The PCI Data Security Standards specifies a list of 12 mandatory requirements, which are grouped under 6 control objectives, as listed below: 1) Build and maintenance of a high-security network, which includes: * Installation of a secure firewall to protect cardholder data. This restricts (or blocks) all traffic from untrusted networks, and prohibit direct public access between the Internet and the cardholder data environment. * Changing of the vendor-provided default password and other security measures. This is important as most card fraudsters are able to break into the cardholder’s internal network using the default passwords. 2) Protection of cardholder information, which includes: * Encryption of cardholder information that is transmitted over public networks. Encryption technology renders the transmitted data unreadable by any unauthorized person. Use of cryptography and security protocols such as SSL/TLS or IPSec can be used to safeguard customer data. * Protection of the stored cardholder data. Sensitive data on the magnetic chip of the card must not be stored. In case the PAN needs to be stored, it must be stored in an unreadable format. Limit the duration of storage of cardholder data. 3) Maintenance of a vulnerability management program, which includes: * Use and regular updates of anti-virus software programs on all systems. Harmful viruses can enter the user network through email and other online activities. Anti-virus software is an effective tool to protect computer systems from external attacks. * Development and maintenance of secure systems and applications. Security vulnerabilities in the system and applications can enable cyber criminals to access PAN and other secure data. Ensure that all the systems and application are updated with the latest security patch from the vendor. 4) Secure access control measures, which includes: * Restricting business access to cardholder information. Limit access to confidential cardholder data to only those users whose work requires this information. Additionally, restrict the access to the least amount of data required for business purpose. * Assigning of a unique ID to every person with computer access. This is important to be able to trace if the access to critical data has been executed by only authorized persons. 5). Restricting of the physical access to cardholder data. Physical access to cardholder data must be restricted to all onsite personnel, visitors, and all paper and electronic media. 6) Regular monitoring and testing of networks, which includes: * Tracking and monitoring of all access points to network resources and cardholder data. Use of logging mechanisms and tracking of user activities are included. * Regular testing of security procedures and processes. Periodic testing of security controls is important, along with internal and external network scans. 7) Maintaining of an information security policy, which includes: * Maintenance of a company policy that addresses information security. This includes establishing a security policy that addresses all the PCI-DSS requirements, along with an annual process to detect any vulnerability. These set of requirements is mandatory for companies that manufacture devices that accept and process PIN-based transactions or any other type of digital payments. Financial institutions, merchants, and service providers must ensure that they only use devices, approved for PTS (PIN transaction security).
The Importance Of PCI ; Data Security Standard (DS...

As the world moves towards digital means of paymen... Read More