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Sniffing out sensitive data

Sniffing out sensitive data is the act of intercepting and monitoring sensitive data on private and public networks. Generally, software and hardware devices sniff out data packets through unencrypted email messages, passwords, and financial information.

Ethical hackers use sniffing to understand a network’s setup and user behaviour. Further, companies can use these insights to improve their cybersecurity. 

In the same way, when launched by hackers, using packet sniffers, they can inject ransomware attacks against unsuspecting targets. This is done by taking control of targeted computers or other devices. 

In fact, In January 2022, CyberCatch scanned 20,000 randomly selected small business websites in the U.S. and 1,850 in Canada. Analysis shows that 26.8% were vulnerable to sniffing attacks. 

Sniffing out sensitive data

Computers are first infected via unsafe websites and phishing scams, tricking users into downloading malicious software through attachments and unsafe links.

Second, another standard method is ARP poisoning, a type of cyberattack exploiting weaknesses in the Address Resolution Protocol to redirect or snoop on network traffic. In this way, the hacker tricks devices on the network into thinking they are communicating with another device. As a result, the attacker can intercept and read all traffic between the two devices.

Thirdly, sniffing involves passively monitoring network traffic without interfering. An attack can be beneficial for gathering information about the data transmitted. 

Fourthly, active sniffing involves sending crafted packets to specific targets to extract sensitive data. Hackers can often bypass security measures.

Preventing attacks

There are many ways to protect your network against sniffing attacks. 

  • One of the best practices is to avoid public Wi-Fi
  • Be on the lookout for phishing attacks. 
  • Using encryption to protect sensitive data from being intercepted
  • Never send sensitive information over an unencrypted connection
  • Staying on top of all traffic passing through the network 
  • Monitoring your network for unusual activity

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