15 Common Types of Hacking: Examples of Each and How to Avoid Them


15 Common Types of Hacking: Examples of Each and How to Avoid Them

Hacking is the unauthorized access of a computer system or network with bad intentions. It’s important to understand the different types of hacking in order to protect yourself and your systems. Let us go through the ten common types of hacking and how to avoid them.

What is Hacking?

As mentioned above, hacking is an attempt to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or network. It’s typically done with malicious intent, such as stealing sensitive information, damaging the system, or holding it for ransom.

Why is Understanding Types of Hacking Important?

Understanding types of hacking is vital for the security of yourself and your systems. Knowing the different types of hacking and how they work can help you identify potential vulnerabilities and take steps to protect against them.

The ten common types of hacking are:

  1. Phishing
  2. Malware
  3. SQL Injection
  4. DDoS Attacks
  5. Password Attacks
  6. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
  7. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  8. Ransomware
  9. Social Engineering
  10. Physical Attacks
  11. Bait and Switch
  12. Cookie Theft
  13. Fake WAP
  14. ClickJacking
  15. Waterhole Attack


Phishing is a type of hacking that uses social engineering to deceive people into giving away sensitive information. This can be information such as login credentials or credit card numbers. 

How Does Phishing Work?

The hacker will typically send an email or message that appears to be like it’s from a legitimate source. It will look like it came from the actual source such as a bank or social media site. The message will ask the recipient to click on a link and enter their login information or other sensitive details.

The actual truth is that the link will take them to a fake website that looks just like the real one. This fake site is actually controlled by the hacker. Once the person enters their information, the hacker can then use it for their own malicious purposes.


Phishing attacks can come in many forms. A hacker can send an email that looks like it’s from your bank, asking you to click on a link to reset your password. Alternatively, they might send a message that looks like it’s from a social media site requesting you to verify your account by entering your login information.

How to Avoid Phishing Attacks

Some simple tips you can use to help you avoid falling victim to a phishing attack are:

  • Check the URL or website address. Before entering any sensitive information, check the URL in your browser’s address bar to make sure it matches the website you expect to be on.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links. If you receive an email or message with a link, hover your mouse over it to see where it leads before clicking on it.
  • Be cautious of urgent or threatening messages. Hackers often try to create a sense of urgency or fear to get people to act quickly without thinking.

The following video by digital payments network Zelle, explains what phishing is and what to do if you believe you are a victim of a phishing attack.


Malware is another common type of hacking. It is an acronym for “malicious software.” It refers to any software designed to cause harm to a computer or network.

How Does Malware Work?

Malware involves using malicious software to infect a device in order to gain access to sensitive information. It can be anything from viruses and ransomware to spyware.


One common type of malware is ransomware. It works by locking a user out of their device or encrypting their files until they pay a ransom to the hacker. Another type is spyware used to secretly monitor a user’s activity and steal their sensitive information.

How to Avoid Malware Attacks

Keep your antivirus software up to date. Antivirus software can help detect and remove malware from your system. You should ensure that you keep it up to date so that it is effective against the latest threats.

Avoid suspicious downloads. Only download software or files from trusted sources. Avoid downloading anything from websites you don’t know. Never click on pop-ups that appear on your screen.

Keep your operating system up to date: Make sure you install software updates regularly. They contain security patches that can protect against the latest malware threats.

For more information on malware attacks, check out the following video from the Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin.

SQL Injection

SQL injection is one of the types of hacking that targets databases by injecting malicious code into SQL statements. 

How Does SQL Injection Work?

SQL injection is a type of hacking attack that exploits vulnerabilities in web applications that interact with databases. The attacker can inject malicious SQL statements that trick the database into executing commands. These commands allow them to steal data or gain access to the system.


One common example of an SQL injection attack is when an attacker injects code into a login form. This can allow them to bypass authentication and gain access to sensitive information. Another example is when an attacker targets an e-commerce website’s database to steal credit card numbers and other personal information.

How to Avoid SQL Injection Attacks

To protect against SQL injection attacks we should use prepared statements in our web applications. Prepared statements are a feature of many programming languages that allow you to separate the SQL query from the user input. This prevents malicious code from being injected.

Other steps you can take to avoid SQL injection attacks include:

  • Validating user input. Always validate user input to ensure it’s in the correct format and doesn’t contain malicious code.
  • Using parameterized queries. Parameterized queries can help prevent SQL injection attacks by allowing you to pass user input as parameters instead of directly including it in the SQL statement.
SQL Slammer Virus
SQL injections exploit vulnerabilities in web applications that interact with databases.


DDoS Attacks

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. This type of attack is designed to overwhelm a website or server with heavy traffic with the intention of rendering it inaccessible to users.

How Do DDoS Attacks Work? 

This is usually done by a group of attackers who use multiple devices to send a huge amount of traffic to the target site to make it crash. DDoS attacks use botnets. These are networks of infected devices the attackers control remotely. These devices can be anything from computers and smartphones to IoT devices such as cameras or routers. The goal is to send as many requests as possible to the server which is a target. The goal is to overwhelm the server with the aim of causing it to crash.


One of the most infamous DDoS attacks was on the DNS provider Dyn in 2016. The attack used a botnet made up of IoT devices such as cameras and routers. They caused major websites like Twitter, Reddit, and Netflix to go down for several hours.

How to Avoid DDoS Attacks

To protect against DDoS attacks, website owners can use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) that can distribute traffic across multiple servers. This makes it harder for attackers to overwhelm a single server. We should also set up firewalls to block malicious traffic and prevent an overload on the server. It’s also important to keep software up to date and to regularly scan devices for malware. A hacker can easily use a device with malware to launch DDoS attacks.

Password Attacks

Password attacks are a type of hacking that involves attempting to gain access to systems or accounts by guessing or cracking passwords. Two types of password attacks are dictionary attacks and brute force attacks.

How Do Password Attacks Work?

Brute-force attacks entail systematically trying every conceivable combination of characters until the correct password is discovered. These attacks can take a long time to complete, especially if the password is long and complex.

Dictionary attacks use a list of common words and phrases to guess the password. This method is more efficient than brute-force attacks since most people use common words and phrases as their passwords.


Examples of password attacks include guessing passwords to gain access to email accounts, bank accounts, and social media accounts. Attackers can use the information they gain from these attacks to steal personal information or commit identity theft.

How to Avoid Password Attacks

To avoid password attacks, it’s important to use strong and unique passwords for every account. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s also recommended to enable two-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a second form of verification like a fingerprint or a code sent to your phone.

It is vital to avoid using easily guessable information in your passwords. Never use information like your name, birth date, or pet’s name. You should also make sure to change your passwords regularly and never share them.

1Password vs LastPass
Use strong and unique passwords for every online account to avoid password attacks.


Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM) occur when a hacker intercepts communication between two parties. This allows them to view or alter the information.

How Do Man-in-the-Middle Attacks Work?

Hackers execute MITM attacks through several methods like intercepting data on unsecured Wi-Fi networks or using malware to redirect internet traffic.


An example of a MITM attack is when a hacker intercepts communication between a user and a website. They can then steal login credentials or personal information. Another is when a hacker intercepts communication between two individuals. This lets them eavesdrop on the conversation or alter the exchanged information.

How to Avoid Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

To avoid MITM attacks, it is crucial to use secure encrypted communication channels such as HTTPS, SSL/TLS, and VPNs. You should also verify SSL certificates to ensure that the website being accessed is legitimate. Never use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and regularly update your software.

XSS Attacks

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a type of hacking attack that targets web applications.

How Do XSS Attacks Work?

It occurs when a malicious attacker injects malicious scripts into a website. This is usually in the form of user input data such as comments or search queries.A script is run in the browser when another user visits the website. This enables the attacker to steal sensitive information or perform malicious actions.


An attacker can use XSS attacks to inject various types of malicious code into a website. They can inject code to steal user login credentials or redirect users to phishing websites. Some code can even take over control of the user’s computer. In some cases, an attacker may also use a stored XSS attack. This is an attack where the injected code is permanently stored on a server and runs every time a user visits the affected page.

How to Avoid XSS Attacks 

To avoid XSS attacks, web developers should implement security measures such as validating input data, sanitizing user input, and using Content Security Policy (CSP). Validating input data ensures that user data is in the correct format. Sanitizing user input removes any potentially malicious code. CSP is a security feature that allows website owners to specify which content sources are allowed to load on their websites. This prevents the execution of any unauthorized code.


Ransomware is a type of malware that is used to hold a victim’s files or computer system hostage until a ransom is paid. It is a form of extortion that has become increasingly common in recent years.

How Does Ransomware Work?

The malware typically encrypts the victim’s files so the user will not be able to access the files. The attacker demands payment in exchange for the decryption key.


There have been several high-profile ransomware attacks in recent years. One such attack is the WannaCry attack that affected computers worldwide in 2017. Another well-known attack was the Colonial Pipeline attack in 2021 that led to fuel shortages in the US. The attackers demanded a ransom payment of millions of dollars in exchange for the decryption key.

How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks

To avoid falling victim to ransomware attacks, there are several steps you can take. You should keep your software up to date with the latest security patches. This can help prevent attackers from taking advantage of weaknesses in outdated software. It is also important to back up your important data regularly. This ensures that even if your files are encrypted by ransomware. You’ll be able to restore them. You must be cautious when opening email attachments or clicking on links.

The following video by The Digital Prepper provides five tips to prevent ransomware attacks.

Social Engineering

This is a type of hacking that involves manipulating people to reveal confidential information or perform actions that benefit the attacker.

How Do Social Engineering Attacks Work?

Social engineering attacks rely on human psychology and emotions to exploit vulnerabilities in a person’s judgment or decision-making process. It can take many forms, such as phishing scams, pretexting, baiting, and tailgating.


Phishing scams, discussed previously, are one of the most common forms of social engineering attacks. They involve sending an email that seems to be from a genuine source and tricking the recipient into clicking a malicious link or downloading a virus-infected attachment.

Pretexting involves creating a false pretext or pretending to gain access to sensitive information or systems. A hacker might call an employee and ask for their login credentials to fix a supposed technical issue by pretending to be from the IT department.

Baiting is a tactic that entails deliberately leaving a physical item, like a USB drive or CD, in a publicly accessible location for someone to come across. The item is often labeled with an enticing title in order to trick the person who finds it into plugging it into their computer and unwittingly downloading malware.

Tailgating involves following someone into a restricted area or building without proper authentication. For example, an attacker might wait for someone to enter a secure building and then hold the door open, pretending to be a legitimate employee or guest.

Baiting involves leaving an item like a flash drive in a public place to trick a person into plugging it into their computer.


How to Avoid Social Engineering Attacks

The best defense against social engineering attacks is to be careful and on your guard. You have to be careful with unsolicited emails or phone calls and never divulge sensitive information to anyone you do not trust. It is crucial to also verify the identity of people asking for sensitive information or access to secure areas. Lastly, we should also be careful when clicking links or downloading attachments from unfamiliar sources.

Organizations can also train employees to recognize and avoid social engineering attacks. They should also implement strict security protocols and monitor network activity for suspicious behavior. 

Physical Attacks

Physical attacks are one of the types of hacking that involve gaining access to sensitive information or systems by physically accessing a device or location. Hackers steal hardware or access credentials. They also install malware or other malicious software on a device. Physical attacks can be very difficult to detect and prevent because they involve direct access to the target device or location.

Examples of Physical Attacks

Some common examples of physical attacks include stealing laptops, phones, or other devices that contain sensitive information. It can also be accessing a computer or server room without authorization. In some cases, attackers install malware or other malicious software on a device. This gives them access to sensitive data or systems remotely.

How to Avoid Physical Attacks

To avoid physical attacks we should use physical security measures like locks and security cameras. It’s also important to keep sensitive devices and information in secure locations and to limit physical access to these resources. We should also be encrypting data and using two-factor authentication to help protect against physical attacks. This makes it more difficult for attackers to gain access to sensitive information or systems. Regularly backing up data is also important because you can then recover your data if you get attacked.


Bait-and-Switch attacks are deceptive tactics used by hackers whereby they deceive victims into doing something that actually helps the hacker.

How Do Bait-and-Switch Attacks Work?

The attacker lures the victim with an attractive offer or irresistible content but in truth is offering something harmful. The attacker tricks the victim with fake but enticing content which is actually malicious. This can happen through different channels but is most prevalent in email, ads, websites, and even social engineering.


  • Fake software updates: Malicious software is disguised as genuine updates by attackers. End users(victims) install this software and end up installing malware instead.
  • Phishing emails: Hackers send emails that appear to come from reputable sources, tempting recipients to click on dangerous links or disclose critical information.
  • Malicious advertisements: Attackers install misleading advertisements on genuine websites, which send users to malicious websites or direct them to download malware.

How to Avoid Bait-and-Switch Attacks

Avoiding bait-and-switch incidents takes caution and awareness. Here are some precautions you need to take to prevent falling prey to these tactics:

  • Stay alert: Be cautious of offers that appear too good to be true, and check the validity of their source.
  • Verify before you click: Hover over links to confirm the actual URL, and never click on suspicious or unknown links.
  • Always have up-to-date software: Update your operating system, programs, and security software on a regular basis to address vulnerabilities.
  • Use security measures: To detect and block dangerous malware, use reliable antivirus and anti-malware programs.
  • Improve your knowledge: To spot warning signs, and stay updated about common hacking techniques, phishing emails, and other deceptive practices.

Cookie Theft

Cookie theft is also known as session hijacking. These attacks are designed to obtain unauthorized access to a user’s account or to steal sensitive information from them.

Cookie theft occurs when hackers steal user session data saved in browser cookies. The attacker intercepts cookies sent between a user’s browser and a website during a cookie theft attack. This is because the cookies store authentication credentials, session IDs, and other data necessary to keep user sessions active.

Examples of Cookie Theft

Public Wi-Fi: Hackers can use special software to intercept cookies and obtain user-session information on unsafe public Wi-Fi networks.

Malicious browser extensions: Cookies can be extracted from users’ browsers without their knowledge by malicious browser extensions. These extensions are actually designed to do so and are basically just like malware.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): XSS flaws allow attackers to insert malicious scripts into websites. This then allows them to steal users’ cookies.

How to Avoid Cookie Theft Attacks

In order to protect yourself from cookie theft attacks, you need to take the right security measures:

  • Secure network connections: Do not use public Wi-Fi networks unless you have encryption and an internet connection you can trust.
  • Always use HTTPS: Make sure every website you visit uses HTTPS which uses encryption to make it harder for hackers to intercept cookies.
  • Regularly clear your cookies: Clearing cookies can help to protect sensitive information saved in them.
  • Update software: To benefit from the most recent security fixes, keep your security software and browser up to date.
  • Beware of suspicious websites: Exercise caution when visiting unknown or suspicious websites because they can be used to steal your cookies.
internet cookies warning this website uses cookies
During a cookie theft attack, the attacker intercepts cookies sent between a user’s browser and a website.


Fake WAP

The creation of a malicious wireless network that impersonates a legitimate network is the goal of fake WAP (Wireless Access Point) attacks, which are also known as Evil Twin attacks. Hackers employ this deceptive technique to intercept and modify network traffic.

How Do Fake WAP Attacks Work?

During this attack, the attacker creates a rogue wireless access point with a name that looks identical to that of the real network. This tricks unsuspecting users into connecting to their malicious network rather than the legitimate one.

Examples of Fake WAP

  • Café Wi-Fi: An attacker in a café creates a rogue wireless network with a name like “FreeCafeWiFi” in order to fool customers into connecting to it rather than the café’s actual network.
  • Airport networks: Hackers set up bogus Wi-Fi networks in airports that impersonate official networks such as “AirportPublicWiFi.”
  • Hotel networks: In order to exploit guests, attackers may set up false networks with names similar to the hotel’s official Wi-Fi.

How to Avoid Fake WAP Attacks

You can protect yourself from these attacks by taking the following precautions:

  • Verify network names: Check with the legitimate internet provider to confirm the precise name of the wireless network.
  • Use trusted networks: Connect only to well-known and reputable networks, like those offered by respected businesses you know.
  • Enable network security: Always make sure that your connection uses  WPA2 or WPA3 encryption.
  • Avoid auto-connect: Disable the feature on your device that automatically connects to wifi hotspots. This is to avoid it from automatically connecting to untrusted or dangerous networks.
  • Use VPN: Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your internet traffic and enhance your security.


Clickjacking attacks, often known as UI (User Interface) redressing attacks, deceive users into clicking on something other than the intended target.

How Do ClickJacking Attacks Work?

This deceptive approach involves placing a transparent but malicious element on top of legit content. A Clickjacking attack attempts to trick users into taking actions they are not aware of, such as clicking on hidden buttons, submitting forms, or granting rights.

Examples of ClickJacking

Likejacking on Social Media: In this case, a clickjacking attack hides a legitimate “Like” button on a website by overlaying it with an undetectable malicious element. Users accidentally “Like” the attacker’s content instead of clicking the real button.

Phishing Attacks: Clickjacking is a technique for creating convincing phishing pages that overlay actual login fields. Users enter their credentials unintentionally into the bogus form, exposing their login details to attackers.

How to Avoid ClickJacking Attacks

You can protect yourself from Clickjacking by doing the following:

  • Keep software updated: Update your operating system, programs, and web browser on a regular basis to ensure they have the most recent security fixes.
  • Enable security features: When available, enable clickjacking protection features such as X-Frame-Options or Content Security Policy (CSP) headers.
  • Be cautious of unknown websites: Never visit questionable or untrustworthy websites that may contain dangerous clickjacking traps.
  • Verify website certificates: When entering sensitive information on websites, always confirm the availability of HTTPS and authentic security certifications.
  • Use browser extensions: Use browser extensions to give extra protection against clickjacking attacks.

Waterhole Attack

Waterhole attacks are a kind of hacking method where attackers compromise websites or online resources used by a specific group of people.

How Do Waterhole Attacks Work?

The attackers discover websites that their intended victims frequently visit and insert malicious code or malware into them. When victims visit these compromised websites, their devices become infected with malware. This allows the attackers to obtain illegal access to sensitive information or control over their systems.

Examples of Waterhole Attacks

Government Agency Targeting: Hackers may breach a website regularly visited by employees of a certain government agency in a waterhole attack. The attackers can acquire access to the agency’s network and sensitive data by infecting the site with malware.

Corporate Espionage: A competitor can penetrate and infect a popular business forum or conference website with malware. When employees from the targeted firms visit the site, their devices become infected, allowing the competitor to steal sensitive corporate data.

How to Avoid Waterhole Attacks

Protect yourself from waterhole attacks by doing the following:

  • Keep software updated: Update your OS, web browser, and programs on a regular basis to ensure they have the most recent security updates.
  • Use security software: Install and keep trusted, up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices.
  • Exercise caution: Be careful especially when visiting websites that are frequently accessed by a particular group that could be targeted.
  • Monitor website reputation: Before visiting potentially dangerous websites, check their reputation and reviews.
  • Use virtual private networks (VPNs): By encrypting your internet data and hiding your true IP address, a VPN can give an extra layer of security.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common type of hacking?

Phishing is one of the most common types of hacking.

How can I protect myself from a DDoS attack?

Use a content delivery network (CDN), firewall, and regularly monitoring your network traffic for unusual activity.

What is the difference between a brute-force attack and a dictionary attack?

A brute-force attack involves trying every possible combination of characters until the correct password is found, while a dictionary attack involves using a pre-computed list of commonly used passwords or words from a dictionary to guess the password.

Can physical security measures prevent hacking?

Yes, physical security measures such as locks, security cameras, and biometric authentication can help prevent hacking

What should I do if I suspect that my computer or network has been hacked?

You should immediately disconnect from the internet, change your passwords, and contact a cybersecurity professional for assistance in identifying and remedying the attack.

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