What is eavesdropping?

“Network security is essential not only for organizations but for individuals too. As cyber criminals are becoming smarter we need to keep our online activities in check. Using public Wi-Fi to make financial transactions or sharing confidential information is not right as it is the most insecure network”.

On the other hand, private networks are better than public Wi-Fi as data can be encrypted to avoid unauthorized access by connecting and reading the traffic as it travels through the network. But all this depends on the security level because it’s easy for connected users to snoop on each other’s traffic.

Table of Contents

What is Eavesdropping Attack?

Eavesdropping is secretly or stealthily listening to the private conversation or communications of others without their consent. The practice is widely regarded as unethical and may be illegal.

Eavesdropping can also be done over telephone lines, email, and other methods of instant messaging considered private. (If a message is broadcast, it is not considered eavesdropping).

Why Eavesdropping?

Every day, millions of transactions take place digitally which require the input of sensitive personal information into websites to make a purchase, forward a loan, sign up for a site membership, etc.

Digital network eavesdropping takes the form of sniffing out this data from websites. Special programs are developed by hackers to seek out and record parts of sensitive data communications from insecure networks. These info-packets are then analyzed using advanced cryptographic tools, or simply read or listened to in hopes of arriving at valuable information.

How is this information valuable?

There are a number of ways in which hackers can manipulate your personal information to their advantage, including:

  1. Using someone’s bank account information to make unauthorized purchases, or to transfer money to the hacker’s account.
  2. Stealing someone’s identity, in terms of their personal address, social security number and other details. The information is then used to commit crimes and lay the blame at the identity theft victim’s doorstep.
  3. Uncovering incriminating evidence against someone, and using the information to blackmail that person for financial gain or emotional leverage.
  4. Using passwords stolen from people to gain access to private parts of a digital network. Once the hacker gets inside a protected web space, there is no end to the damage that can be inflicted on the web space. Sometimes, the results can even spill out into the real world.

Methods of Eavesdropping

  • Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to eavesdrop on digital conversations. Voice-over-IP calls which are made using IP-based communication are recorded with the help of protocol analyzers. The data can be converted into audio files to be analyzed by the hacker.
  • Another popular eavesdropping method is data sniffing. This technique works well on local networks which make use of a HUB. Since all the communications within the network are sent to all the ports of the network, all a sniffer has to do is choose to accept every bit of incoming data, even though they were not the intended recipients. Wireless networking data can be similarly manipulated if it broadcasts unsecured information to all the network ports.
  • Taking a step back from digital crime, the simple act of listening to two people talk in the real world using microphones and recorders can often lead to the gain of personal information. Phones can be hacked into by remotely activating the device’s speaker function. The same can be done to laptops, where microphones are switched on discretely to listen in on the owner.

Prevention from Eavesdropping

As there are hackers looking to eavesdrop on every person’s digital conversations, there are also cybersecurity experts working non-stop to ensure online conversations are kept as secure as possible. There are a number of ways this is done, including:

  • A large part of the duties of a cybersecurity expert is to encrypt data before it is transferred using digital networks. Encryption basically refers to scrambling the data before sending it to the receiver so that any third party that tries to read the data only sees a combination of strings and numbers. The receiver, on the other hand, has an encryption key which can be used to unscramble the message and retrieve the information in a safe and secure manner.
  • Working for a company as a cybersecurity expert means you will often be called upon to explain the basics of cybersecurity to other employees who use the company’s digital network. You will have to teach them to pick a strong password, to keep changing the password at regular intervals, not to download or open unknown files off the internet and other security basics which will help protect the company’s network. Read this post to Create Secure Passwords To Keep Your Identity Safe.
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