Fake Hacking Definition

KZero Staff
Jul 27, 2023

What is Fake Hacking?

Fake hacking is a specific kind of attack where, even though no hacking has actually occurred, the victim is led to believe that that was the case. Fake hacking usually involves financial extortion, and the targets tend to be large organizations and wealthy individuals.

How Does Fake Hacking Work?

Fake hacking attacks occur when the attacker claims that some form of cyberattack has occurred when none really has. This is often used as part of a social engineering attack where the target’s belief that they have been hacked can be used as leverage to induce them to take some action that benefits the attacker.

A common fake hacking technique is for the attacker to claim that they have stolen some sensitive or embarrassing information from the target. For example, the attacker may claim to have access to the user’s account passwords and threaten to reveal them or use them for fraud. Alternatively, the attacker may claim that they had hacked the target’s webcam and recorded them doing something embarrassing.

While no real hacking has occurred, the belief that it has can be used as leverage against the target. For example, the attacker could extort a ransom to not release the passwords or videos or to refrain from using any of the stolen passwords.

How to Detect Fake Hacking

In general, it’s difficult to prove a negative, and fake hackers rely on this. While it’s entirely possible that a sophisticated hacker could gain access to systems undetected, most cybercriminals carrying out fake hacking attacks don’t have that level of skill.

Some of the red flags that indicate a likely fake hacking attack include:

  • Ransom Demands: Fake hackers are in business to get money by tricking people with their false claims. If an attacker is demanding money, there is a chance that the attack is fake.
  • Grandiose Claims: Fake hackers often claim to have carried out major hacks to make their stories scarier to their targets. If an attacker makes sweeping, almost unbelievable claims, then they’re likely fake.
  • No Effects: Fake hackers may throw up fake ransomware screens on a computer or take other actions designed to make it look like it was hacked. However, in general, malware causes computers not to work properly, so, if your computer still works fine, then the hack is probably a scam.
  • Lacking Sophistication: High-level cybercrime runs like a business with the infrastructure to support it. If a hacker lacks a real website, authentic email address, or other easy-to-obtain infrastructure, then they’re probably fake.


Fake hackers prey on fear and a lack of understanding of what the average cybercriminal can and can’t do. If you’ve experienced a potential fake hacking attack, look carefully at the attacker’s claims and the sophistication of their infrastructure. If the claims are obviously false or the infrastructure is less sophisticated than the hack, then it’s probably fake. If you’re still not sure, consult with a security expert before engaging with the alleged attacker and sending them any money.

KZero Staff

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