How long does it take hackers to collect data?


Can you imagine how scary it would be to show up to work one day, ready to dominate, and then BAM! All your confidential files have been stolen, and your computer is now a breeding ground for cyber viruses.

How about if you just launched a new product, which you’ve been advertising for months, and suddenly your website is down, and customers are being redirected to a competitor’s site? Or worse -- you can’t access your online banking account anymore.

These are just a few examples of what can happen when hackers get their hands on your data. And it’s not just big businesses at risk -- hackers will target anyone at any time, no matter the size of the company or individual.

Being prepared and knowing how hackers operate is not only imperative, but it’s the best defense against becoming a victim.

So, how do hackers get their hands on your data? And once they have access, how long does it take to collect sensitive information? To help you be well-prepared in the event of an attack, we’ll take you through the mind of a cyber attacker and the areas they find to be the easiest to conduct a successful hack.

Understanding the mind of a hacker

This is the first step in being able to protect yourself against them. So, what motivates a person to want to commit a cyberattack?

There are three main reasons:

  1. Personal gain
  2. Revenge
  3. Hacktivism

The most common motivation for hackers is self-interest, which includes anything from stealing money or data to selling sensitive information on the black market for financial gain.

Revenge is just as common, especially among employees who have been fired or feel they have been treated unjustly by their employer. In these cases, hackers will try to access company systems to delete files, destroy data, or take the entire system down as retribution.

Hacktivism is when hackers use their skills for political or social purposes. For example, they may target a company or government agency they disagree with to try and disrupt their operations.

Now that you understand what motivates hackers to commit crimes, let’s look at how they operate.

The stages of a hack

There are four main stages of a hack:

  1. Reconnaissance
  2. Scanning
  3. Gaining access
  4. Maintaining access

Reconnaissance is the first stage, and it’s all about collecting information about the target. Hackers will use various methods to do this, including social media, Google searches, and even public records.

The second stage is scanning, which is when hackers start looking for vulnerabilities in the system. They’ll use special tools and software to do this, and it’s during this stage that they’ll also decide what type of attack they’re going to launch.

Gaining access is self-explanatory -- this is when they actually breach the system and start stealing data or wreaking havoc.

And finally, there’s maintaining access. This is when hackers make sure they can come back and access the system again at any time without being detected. They’ll do this by installing backdoor programs or planting malware.

How long does it take to hack someone?

Because technology is constantly evolving, it’s hard to give an exact answer. However, according to a study on 300 ethical hackers, the average time for a hacker to collect data is just five hours. Furthermore, while roughly 64 percent of respondents said it took under five hours, 24 percent said it could take simply 1-2 hours to get the job done. Can you imagine how devastating it would be if a hacker could access all of your data in such a short amount of time?

This just goes to show that you can never be too careful when it comes to cybersecurity.

The most common methods used by hackers

So we’ve already covered what motivates a person to commit a cyberattack and the stages of a hack. Now, let’s dive into how a hacker can disrupt digital systems.

Social Engineering

Social engineering

With social engineering, people are tricked into giving away sensitive information. This includes customer data, passwords, and even Social Security numbers.

It’s important to be aware of this type of attack because it’s becoming more prevalent. Hackers are getting better at disguising themselves to look like legitimate businesses or individuals, so be cautious about who you share your information with.


Although phishing is a type of social engineering, it’s worth mentioning on its own because it’s become such a serious problem in recent years.

Phishing attempts are typically emails or text messages that look like they’re from a legitimate, real source but are actually from a hacker. They’ll often try to entice you to click on a link that will take you to a fake website where you’ll be asked to enter personal information.

Credit card phishing attempts are one of the most common types. As if hacking wasn’t enough, now you have to worry about fraudulent charges too. In fact, 80 percent of chargebacks are fraud-related, so it’s become increasingly important to have a good fraud prevention strategy in place as well.

Web applications

Web applications are another popular target for hackers because they’re often not as secure as they should be. This is especially true for older web apps that may not have been updated in a while.

Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in web applications to gain access to sensitive data, plant malware, or even take the entire system down.

These are just a few of the most common methods used by hackers to collect data.

What can you do to stay protected?

When it comes to cybersecurity, the best defense is a good offense. That’s why it’s so important to stay up-to-date on the latest security threats and have systems in place to counter attacks.

Have a robust security system in place

This should go without saying, but it’s essential to have a strong security system to deter hackers in the first place. This includes things like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and malware protection.

Some great security systems widely used and trusted are Norton, McAfee, and Bitdefender.

Make sure your software is up-to-date and backed up

One of the best ways to stay protected is to make sure all of your software is up-to-date. This includes things like your operating system, web browser, and any security software you have installed.

It’s also a good idea to regularly back up your data in case of an attack, so you can restore it if necessary.

Educate your employees

Your employees are one of your biggest assets -- but they can also be one of your biggest weaknesses. Hackers will often target employees in an attempt to gain access to your systems.

That’s why educating your employees on cybersecurity best practices is so important. Training workers includes:

  • Teaching them to be careful about who they share their information with
  • Advising them not to click on suspicious links
  • Encouraging them to report any suspicious activity

The more employees you have who are aware of the dangers, the better equipped you’ll be to defend against them.

Final thoughts

Although cybersecurity can seem like a never-ending journey, there are some things you can do to stay protected. These include keeping your passwords strong, using two-factor authentication, backing up your data, having robust security software in place, and, most importantly - staying informed!

With these tips in mind, you can help keep your data safe from hackers!

Image Credit: adike/Shutterstock

Social Engineering Image credittashatuvango/

Lee Li is a project manager and B2B copywriter with a decade of experience in the Chinese fintech startup space as a PM for TaoBao, MeitTuan, and DouYin (now TikTok).

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