Much like real-life burglars, experienced digital attackers take a lot of time to plan out their actions before actually striking. From hitting the target at the right time to knowing exactly what vulnerabilities to expect, the research that goes into a coordinated attack can be quite frightening. If you are concerned about your security, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the methods used for this kind of research and know what you can do to deal with them in advance.
What Is Footprinting?
An attacker doesn’t need to know much to target you – your IP is usually enough. A bad actor can do a lot with a simple IP address, as explained by Smartproxy.
What can someone do with your IP? First, they can analyze the behavior of many services running on your system. Using a private proxy from a reliable company is a good way to evade these attacks, but it’s just one line of defense. An attacker will often attempt multiple things: looking up all open ports on a system, analyzing the services that run on those ports to look for outdated versions with known exploits, crawling a website with automated bots to extract data from all visible pages, and more..
Critical Points of Access
Sometimes you can’t do much to prevent these probes because you still need your data to be accessible to regular users. However, you should closely watch the open ports. Many administrators wrongly assume that just because a service is password-protected, it’s enough security to keep the overall system safe. But an attacker will often try to figure out exactly what version of each service you have installed and will compare it against a database of known exploits. Depending on how your system is configured, one faulty service could be enough to compromise everything. Some services need to run with elevated privileges to do their basic job, and that’s exactly what hackers are counting on discovering. You must also inspect the public-facing side of your site and conceal anything that should not be available without authorization.
Every Bit of Information Matters
Even if they don’t gain immediate access to your system, attackers can still learn a lot of valuable details. By probing response times, they can guess when your network is under the most load and plan the timing of their attacks so that they are less likely to be noticed. Services that give hints about available user accounts can tell a lot about who uses the system and what privileges they might have. Password-protected areas of your systems will draw additional attention, as they can be assumed to hide valuable information. The list goes on, but you get the point – just because a certain piece of information doesn’t directly compromise your system, it doesn’t mean you can ignore it. A competent attacker will put the full picture together from many small pieces.
What to Do if You Suspect You’re Being Targeted
Monitoring your network activity is always a good idea if you want to prevent targeted attacks. You can set up scripts to analyze traffic for unusual patterns, which will help you realize you are getting probed. Taking this step further, you can set up some parts of the system to intentionally feed misleading data to provoke a reaction. For example, sending the wrong version number for critical services like MySQL database could lead less experienced attackers to try breaching it, exposing them immediately without actually risking your security. Of course, this won’t stop a more experienced attacker. But it will still go a long way towards deterring random attacks and catching them before they’ve caused any serious harm.
Server Owners Aren’t the Only Ones Who Should Worry
All of the above doesn’t just apply to server owners. These kinds of attacks often target regular users just as well. As long as you have a publicly visible IP address, you can be targeted by anyone who knows it. That’s why we recommend using proxies! But have in mind that you should always take precautions to avoid revealing your IP address, whenever that’s possible. Don’t connect to suspicious servers, and always monitor your activity as closely as possible to look for any suspicious signs. Some people might claim that a personal firewall is useless, but it can actually provide you with some valuable insights about what’s going on behind the scenes and whether someone might be targeting you.
It Will Keep Getting Worse
It’s hard to predict how things will develop in the near future, and what kinds of new attacks will show up on the horizon. It’s obvious at this point that attackers will go to great lengths to gain access to systems that interest them, no matter if they’re owned by a company or a single individual. You have a lot of options for raising the bar of your security, and you should take full advantage of them. Taking some time to learn about how things work and what you can expect from a typical attack can go a long way towards keeping you safe online.
However, you can’t expect to just read up on current trends and be done with it. If you care about your security on a serious level, you should regularly spend time exploring new developments in the field.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these tricks can sometimes be subtle. It won’t always be obvious that someone is probing your network. You have to stay vigilant and consult specialists if any serious amount of money is on the line. But on the bright side, a lot that happens in this area tends to get made available to the public. So, you should have plenty of materials available. Just make it a habit to look up recent developments and know what to expect from malicious operators.