Most Common Website Hacking Techniques

Most Common Website Hacking Techniques

If you want to implement the right cybersecurity to protect your website against hackers, you need to know the most common techniques they use.

If you think you’re not a target, think again. Hackers are everywhere, and just about everyone is their target.

Hackers don’t hesitate to exploit vulnerabilities, although victims don’t usually notice for a while.

According to statistics, it takes an average of 207 days for a victim to identify a data breach.

By then, the damage is usually done, and the result is costly.

This article will cover what each of these techniques are, how it works, and how you can protect your website. The first three types of attacks fall under the category of social engineering.

What is social engineering?

Social Engineering Tactics To Watch For

Social engineering is a special kind of exploit that doesn’t rely on software vulnerabilities, but rather, human vulnerabilities. For example, a hacker might convince a website developer to tell them information that will help them gain access to the site. Once they have enough information – often obtained from multiple sources – they can use the data to exploit a website.

You’d think that social engineering wouldn’t be that big of a problem today, but it is, and it’s huge. Hackers have gotten extremely clever and sneaky, and they use psychology to trick their victims.

The three most common social engineering attacks are phishing attacks, baiting, and pretexting.

1. Phishing and spear-phishing attacks

Even the most well-meaning, aware person can fall for a sophisticated phishing scheme, especially if the hacker gets certain details correct that make the scheme more believable.

In a phishing scheme, the victim receives an email that looks like it came from a trusted source, like their bank. In this case, the email will ask the user to click on a link and log into their account, usually under the guise of fixing some kind of problem.

The link leads to a malicious website designed to look exactly like the bank’s website, and sometimes people fall for this deception. When they enter their username and password, the data is sent directly to the hacker, giving them access to the person’s account.

Spear-phishing is a more targeted attack against specific individuals in order to gain specific data. This type of attack is used when hackers know exactly what they want and who has that data.

In terms of your website, the biggest danger you face with phishing attacks is that cybercriminals might hack your website and install malware to serve phishing attacks against others. If this happens, your website will probably get shut down when your host realizes your site has been hacked.

To get your site back online, you’ll need to clean your site of all malware, which usually requires hiring a professional service.

2. Baiting

Baiting is a hacking technique that has been around since the 1970s. This is where someone will prepare a malicious USB drive (or other data storage device) and leave it somewhere near your business. It will be labeled something that will catch an employee’s attention, like “employee benefits.” When a curious employee picks it up and inserts it into their computer, the malware will infect their computer and possibly your company’s network if they’re connected.

3. Pretexting

Pretexting isn’t as common, but it still happens. This is where a hacker will contact someone from your company or a client, pretend to be someone else, and ask for sensitive information. Sometimes it doesn’t work because the person they’re pretending to be is well-known. However, you’d be surprised at how many people get tricked with pretexting.

The best way to prevent pretexting is to create rules around how sensitive information can be distributed and inform employees that they should never give out any company information or login credentials without your approval. For most social engineering techniques, education is the best defense.

4. SQL Injection attacks

SQL Injection attacks

Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection attacks are the most common hacking technique simply because there are thousands of vulnerable PHP-based websites that make it easy. These attacks exploit web forms in order to run SQL commands.

SQL is a language used to interact with a database. For example, SQL is used to add, edit, and delete database records. For websites that store important information in a database, this kind of attack is bad news. Hackers can use this kind of attack to bypass authentication, steal data, corrupt or delete data, and gain access to the system root. Unfortunately, these attacks aren’t easy to recover from.

How to protect against SQL Injection attacks

The best way to protect your website against SQL Injection attacks is to avoid using dynamic SQL. For instance, you’ll need to run applications that don’t put user input directly into SQL statements and use parameterized queries. It’s also important to sanitize all user inputs. Always escape characters when necessary and verify the type of data submitted in forms.

Other ways to protect your website include:

  • Limiting database permissions/privileges
  • Don’t display database errors
  • Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

For more information on how these attacks and solutions work, you can learn about SQL Injection attacks from the security experts at Rapid7.

Last, always update your software, especially when your website runs on a PHP-based CMS, like WordPress.

You may have heard about these attacks targeting WordPress websites, and because of this, WordPress has an incorrect reputation for being unsecure. However, the WordPress platform isn’t insecure – the problem is that users don’t update core files, install patches, and keep plugins updated.

If you’re running WordPress, updating your plugins will fix known vulnerabilities, which will help prevent SQL Injection attacks.

5. Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks

DDoS attacks are common and frustrating. However, they’re not as devastating as other attacks. This type of attack sends an enormous number of requests to a website until it crashes. Although a DDoS attack can take your website down for a while and you’ll probably lose some revenue, it’s relatively easy to get back up and running.

A good way to prevent DDoS attacks is to host your website with a reputable company that takes precautions, like using firewalls and DDoS mitigation software, rate limiting server routers, and using filters to drop suspicious packets.

6. Cross-site request forgery (CSRF/XSRF)

Cross-site request forgery takes advantage of users when logged into a web application. When logged in, the web application trusts the user, and so hackers will use that open connection to do things like transfer money, get login information, steal credit card data, and more.

Hackers transmit their forged commands through hidden forms, AJAX, and image tags. Since the user is logged in and authenticated, the web application already trusts the user and will execute those commands even though they’re coming from another website.

There are two ways to prevent cross-site request forgery attacks. Check HTTP headers to make sure a request is coming from a legitimate source, and verify CRSF tokens from web forms.

7. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS)

XSS attacks are considered a major exploitation, and no website is immune. In fact, both Microsoft and Google have experienced XSS attacks despite high-level security measures in place.

These attacks utilize JavaScript embedded in hyperlinks to steal information, hijack a browser session, alter ads on the page, or even take over a user’s account. The malicious hyperlinks are inserted into random locations where they entice users to click.

The best way to protect your site against XSS attacks is to filter user input in a way that removes malicious code. If you’re not sure how to accomplish this, hire a developer or security expert to make sure your site is secure.

8. DNS spoofing/cache poisoning

A DNS spoofing attack redirects legitimate website traffic to a malicious website where malware is waiting to execute the second part of the attack.

There are two basic ways to prevent DNS spoofing. Set short TTL times and clear the DNS cache on local machines regularly. If these tips sound foreign to you, then you need a professional website developer to make sure your website isn’t vulnerable to DNS spoofing.

Secure your website from common threats with!

How secure is your website? If you got hacked today, would you recover easily or would you be completely out of commission? If you’re not sure your website is secure enough to prevent some of the most common hacking attacks, you need a professional developer to secure your site.

Don’t rely solely on security plugins for your CMS. While many of them are helpful, like the Securi Security plugin, simply having security plugins (especially open source cybersecurity plugins)  installed doesn’t automatically make your site impervious. If you want to have peace of mind, it’s important to have your website professionally secured.

Need a new website? We’ll build you a secure, custom website

Whether you need a brand-new website, or you’d like to secure your existing site, has you covered.

If you don’t already have a website, our web development team can build you a professional site that incorporates all the industry standard security features you need to keep your site safe.

Need to clean up some malware? We do that, too

If you’ve already been hacked and you need someone to clean up your site, we can do that, too. If you’re using WordPress, you can perform a malware scan using the Wordfence Security plugin, or we can do it for you.

If you’re not on the WordPress platform, reach out to us and we’ll find the easiest way to scan your site for malware and get it cleaned up fast so you can resume business operations as quickly as possible.

Work with for all your website needs

No matter what you need, we can take on your project, big or small. Our professional development team can help you get a beautiful, secure website whether you’re starting from scratch or you need some modifications to your existing website.

We can design and develop a fully custom site with platforms like WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow, or we can create a custom content management system just for you. If you need special features, our programming team can create anything you need using PHP, Python, .NET, or popular JavaScript frameworks like Laravel, Electron, and React.

When you work with, you can count on having a professional, secure, and mobile-friendly website with a user-friendly design. If you’re ready to move forward, contact us today and tell us what you need. We’d love to discuss your project!

Ryan is the VP of Operations for He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations--delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.
Connect with Ryan on Linkedin.
Ryan Nead