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how do hackers attack a website

How Do Hackers Attack a Website?

hackers website attack
via Pixabay

With about 300,000 pieces of malware created daily, there is no doubt that attacks happen all the time. Even as you are reading this, a hacker is trying to launch an attack on an individual or organization. According to the University of Maryland, every 39 seconds, an attack happens online. 

Hackers don’t stop for a while to take a break or so. They constantly check on vulnerabilities or possibilities for them to get what they want.

Since there are millions of websites online, and part of them are eCommerce shops or have an online shop integrated into it, makes it enticing for hackers to attack. Every day 30,000 websites are being hacked. That’s a lot!

Most of the websites targeted are financial, healthcare, and retail. They try to gain access to these organizations’ websites for multiple reasons. However, the main result of which is to steal money from those attacks.

If you are a business owner or run a website, you know that attacks do happen daily. Or, maybe, it can come as a surprise if you are new to the field. Either way, knowing how hackers attack your website can give you an idea of how to secure them.

When we know what hackers do to gain control over a website, we can find a way to secure those parts. Hence, they won’t be able to launch their attack anymore.

So, how does a hacker attack a website?

How Do Hackers Attack a Website?

Social Engineering

It is the most popular method used by hackers. Social engineering or human hacking is done by persuading a person to do something that provides hackers access to the website.

It can be done in different ways. Hackers can even go to the extent of dressing up as someone and visiting the target.

  • Phishing

It is the most common form of social engineering technique. Hackers utilize emails to attempt access to a website or a person’s computer. 

The attacker sends an email, pretending to be someone they are not, and asks their potential victim to provide essential information. Once they have what they need, they can easily access a website anytime they want.

  • Baiting

Perhaps one of the oldest forms of social engineering attack. It is done by leaving behind a device (USB) with an obvious marking that can make an employee curious to open it.

When the device is inserted into the computer, it’ll infect it with malware, and hackers can now steal the information they need.

  • Pretexting

It happens by contacting a person that works for a company or a customer to get valuable information out of them. The hacker then pretends to be related to the company so they can access the information they need.

Brute Force Attacks

Hackers try to decipher a password in the hopes of getting inside an account. They utilize the rainbow table to crack a password.

A rainbow table is a database that has password hashes. It contains plaintext passwords and their hash values to figure out what plaintext password generates a specific hash. Since multiple texts can yield the same hash, it isn’t necessary to know what the original password was, as long as the hash is the same.

But it takes years for attackers to guess the password unless it is simple and obvious.


Hackers make an effort to embed hidden malware into a website. The attacker tricks a person into clicking an image, video, or any element on a website that is disguised as a nefarious weblink.

When the victim clicks on it, it can automatically download malware that can read keyboard activities, including the passwords entered on a website. Sometimes, it can be a link to a malicious website that authorized money transfer or purchase of a product.

SQL Injection Attack

SQL or Structured Query Language is used by developers for websites to create, update, or delete database records on a site. Everything you do on a website uses SQL, from logging in to information storage.

In SQL injection, hackers can insert codes on websites using automated tools. It scans for websites and inserts code, testing if it’ll work.

If a malicious code is inserted, attackers can gain access to restricted areas of a website or delete data on the database.

Once the SQL code injection is successful, it gives hackers the power to do anything they want on the website.

XSS or Cross-Site Scripting

An XSS attack is one of the most complicated attacks to deal with. Hackers inject malicious Javascript into the website or hyperlinks. When someone clicks on the link, it can steal personal data, hijack the web session, control a user’s account, or change ad displays on a website.

Some cross-site scripting hackers insert links on web forums, social media, or popular websites that can be easily clicked.

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)

Have you encountered a website that denies you access? Or you cannot complete a transaction? It’s because there might be flooding of fake (or sometimes real traffic) on that website.

DDoS is a method attackers use to crash a website’s server. The attack comes from multiple sources, sending fake traffic to the server so that the website will be overwhelmed. 

Sometimes attacks can be due to reasons of competition, while others can be to extort money.

You can read more about DDoS attacks here.

Cross-site Request Forgery Attack (CSFR)

CSFR is the malicious exploitation of a website. Unauthorized commands will transmit from a user a web application trust.

When the user logs into the website, it allows hackers to do anything they desire. They can gain access to valuable information or transfer money.

Hackers can accomplish the transmission of the cross-site forged request. It is in image tags, AJAX, and hidden forms. The problem is that users are not aware that they have received a command, so they easily click on it. 

CSFR attacks can gain access when the user logs into the website. 

DNS Spoofing

DNS spoofing occurs when hackers insert a corrupt domain system into the DNS cache. It will then redirect the user from a legitimate website to a malicious one. 

Sometimes it gathers information about the traffic being sent to the malicious site. When traffic enters a malicious website, it can get malware into the computer. Hence, it leads to the stealing of personal data.

Stealing Cookies

To steal web cookies, a hacker could create a rogue browser add-on. Then, they will be able to view session information and passwords if this happens. Furthermore, they can access other logins after that.

Learning about how hackers get into a website can help you find possible ways to prevent them. 

The more you learn about an attacker’s move, the more you’ll know what to do.

How to Prevent an Attack on Your Website?

Here are simple ways you can secure your website from attacks.

Update Software and Plugins

Outdated software, certificates, and plugins are essential in helping hackers enter a website. It is scanned by malicious bots so attackers can have an idea of what to do.

Avoid providing a backdoor for hackers. Update every software and plugins you use for your website and business. These updates will patch or repair vulnerabilities and better features.

You can set the software and plugins you use to update automatically.

Add HTTPS and SSL Certificate

Keep your website and traffic information safe by using certifications such as SSL and HTTPS. 

HTTPS ensures internet security. While the content is in transit, HTTPS prevents interceptions and disruptions.

Your website will also require an SSL certificate to establish a secure online connection. Encrypt your connection if your website asks visitors to register, sign up, or make any transaction.

Furthermore, SSL transfers personal information from website visitors to the website’s database. SSL encrypts data to prevent others from accessing it while it is in transit.

It also prevents individuals without proper authority from accessing the data.

Use Strong Passwords

Passwords are the first line of defense for accounts, whether it’s for users or admin accounts. It protects the information and content of the user. 

Inform your employees to create accounts with complex passwords only. Educate them on how a strong password should look. It must contain more than 14 characters with a combination of upper and lower cases. Furthermore, include symbols and numbers to it too.

Discourage your employees and customers to use recycled passwords or anything that includes their information, like favorite food or pet.

A weak password can easily be deciphered by hackers using brute force attacks. Therefore, with a strong password, it will be difficult for them to hack the account.

Make it a habit to change passwords every 3 or 6 months.

Choose a Secure Web Host

A web host is a service that allows anyone to post a website on the internet. There are plenty of web hosting providers, but not everything you see online is the same.

You’ll need to know which host can provide you with the best service for your website. Choose one that has excellent strength and better security features.


  • Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP
  • Is FTP use by unknown users disabled?
  • Rootkit Scanner
  • Backup service
  • Frequent security upgrades

Educate Employees

One of the biggest reasons why hackers gain access to a website or company’s information is due to insider threats. Most employees are not aware of cybersecurity practices that can harm the company. Therefore, they accidentally give information away.

For better security, educating your employees about phishing threats, creating strong passwords, and more can help. As they learn things, they can easily spot a legitimate email, a social engineering technique, and so on.

Limit Access on Website Admin

When giving admin access to employees, educate them first. Inform them of the cybersecurity practices they need to implement before they are given access. 

Provide access to those employees who know cybersecurity practices and you trust. 

Furthermore, you can also track who logs in and out of the website by keeping a record of it. Most CMS can show recent activities on the backend. Use this to keep track of who, when, and where someone accesses the company’s restricted pages.

Check for SQL Injections

If you are using Transact SQL, change them to a more secure SQL. Choose a parameterized query to prevent hackers from inserting rogue codes into your website. Using a programming language that can carefully filter changes is beneficial.

Protection Against XSS Attacks

Instead of concatenating strings or setting raw HTML text, use functions that can make the changes you need or use methods in your template tools that automatically conduct proper escaping.

You can use tools that can protect your website from XSS attacks. Content Security Policy (CSP) can limit the browser to JavaScript executed on a page. Anything not hosted on your domain is not allowed to run.

Backup Website Data

It is critical to perform backup on your website’s data and content. Use multiple backup systems to ensure that you have multiple copies in case one fails. 

You can back up your data off-site or on the cloud. Make sure that the backup system you use can be easily accessible at all times and has the best and highest security available.

In case of ransomware or other online attacks, you’ll be able to access your data and don’t have to start all over again.

Add a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

A WAF keeps your website server and the data secure. So when anything passes through your server, it is encrypted. It even detects suspicious data or activity and blocks them.

It’s one of the best ways to prevent unwanted traffic, malicious bots, and spies.

Get Website Security Tools

You can install free or paid website security tools to monitor your website from suspicious activities or attacks. It stops attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities on your site. 

Furthermore, these security tools can detect critical issues on your website for you to fix immediately. It even tests if your other security measures are working to protect your website.

Protect Your Device

It’s not only about protecting your website that matters. You’ll need to protect the device you and your employees use to access the backend of your website.

You can use security software to protect your device, online activities, and emails from threats. It prevents you and your employees from opening an infected link or phishing email.

Check out our AVG antivirus software NZ for your online security.

Also, implement rules when using other devices, particularly if your business practices the BYOD method or hires remote workers.

Other ways to protect a website from attacks:

  • Rate limiting website server
  • Setting timeout connection aggressively
  • Use DDoS mitigation software
  • Shorten the TTL time
  • Clear DNS cache on the machine

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