What Constitutes a Cyber Attack?

When there is an unauthorised system or network access by a third party, we classify it as a cyber attack. When an attack is carried out, it can lead to data breaches, resulting in data loss or data manipulation. Organizations incur financial losses, customer trust gets hampered, and there is reputational damage.

Cybersecurity is the method of safeguarding networks, computer systems, and their components from unauthorized digital access. There are many varieties of cyber attacks that happen in the world today. If we know the various types of cyberattacks, it becomes easier for us to protect our networks and systems against them. 

#1 Malware Attack

This is one of the most common types of cyberattacks. “Malware” refers to malicious software viruses including worms, spyware, ransomware, adware, and trojans. The trojan virus disguises itself as legitimate software. Ransomware blocks access to the network’s key components, whereas Spyware is software that steals all your confidential data without your knowledge. Adware is software that displays advertising content such as banners on a user’s screen. Malware breaches a network through a vulnerability. When the user clicks a dangerous link, it downloads an email attachment or when an infected pen drive is used. 

Let’s now look at how we can prevent a malware attack:

  • Use antivirus software. It can protect your computer against malware. Avast Antivirus, Norton Antivirus, and McAfee Antivirus are a few of the popular antivirus software.
  • Use firewalls. Firewalls filter the traffic that may enter your device. Windows and Mac OS X have their default built-in firewalls, named Windows Firewall and Mac Firewall.
  • Stay alert and avoid clicking on suspicious links.
  • Update your OS and browsers, regularly.

#2 Phishing Attack

Phishing attacks are one of the most prominent widespread types of cyberattacks. It is a type of social engineering attack wherein an attacker impersonates to be a trusted contact and sends the victim fake mails. Unaware of this, the victim opens the mail and clicks on the malicious link or opens the mail’s attachment. By doing so, attackers gain access to confidential information and account credentials. They can also install malware through a phishing attack. 

Phishing attacks can be prevented by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • Scrutinize the emails you receive. Most phishing emails have significant errors like spelling mistakes and format changes from that of legitimate sources.
  • Make use of an anti-phishing toolbar.
  • Update your passwords regularly.

#3 Man-in-the-Middle Attack

A Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MITM) is also known as an eavesdropping attack. In this attack, an attacker comes in between a two-party communication, i.e., the attacker hijacks the session between a client and host. By doing so, hackers steal and manipulate data. As seen below, the client-server communication has been cut off, and instead, the communication line goes through the hacker.

MITM attacks can be prevented by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • Be mindful of the security of the website you are using. Use encryption on your devices.
  • Refrain from using public Wi-Fi networks.

#4 Denial-of-Service Attack

A Denial-of-Service Attack is a significant threat to companies. Here, attackers target systems, servers, or networks and flood them with traffic to exhaust their resources and bandwidth. When this happens, catering to the incoming requests becomes overwhelming for the servers, resulting in the website it hosts either shut down or slow down. This leaves the legitimate service requests unattended. It is also known as a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack when attackers use multiple compromised systems to launch this attack. 

Let’s now look at how to prevent a DDoS attack:

  • Run a traffic analysis to identify malicious traffic.
  • Understand the warning signs like network slowdown, intermittent website shutdowns, etc. At such times, the organization must take the necessary steps without delay.
  • Formulate an incident response plan, have a checklist and make sure your team and data center can handle a DDoS attack.
  • Outsource DDoS prevention to cloud-based service providers.

#5 Zero-Day Exploit

A Zero-Day Exploit happens after the announcement of a network vulnerability; there is no solution for the vulnerability in most cases. Hence the vendor notifies the vulnerability so that the users are aware; however, this news also reaches the attackers. Depending on the vulnerability, the vendor or the developer could take any amount of time to fix the issue. Meanwhile, the attackers target the disclosed vulnerability. They make sure to exploit the vulnerability even before a patch or solution is implemented for it. 

Zero-day exploits can be prevented by:

  • Organizations should have well-communicated patch management processes. Use management solutions to automate the procedures. Thus it avoids delays in deployment.
  • Have an incident response plan to help you deal with a cyberattack. Keep a strategy focussing on zero-day attacks. By doing so, the damage can be reduced or completely avoided.

#6 Cryptojacking

The term Cryptojacking is closely related to cryptocurrency. Cryptojacking takes place when attackers access someone else’s computer for mining cryptocurrency. The access is gained by infecting a website or manipulating the victim to click on a malicious link. They also use online ads with JavaScript code for this. Victims are unaware of this as the Crypto mining code works in the background; a delay in the execution is the only sign they might witness. 

Cryptojacking can be prevented by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • Update your software and all the security apps as cryptojacking can infect the most unprotected systems.
  • Have cryptojacking awareness training for the employees; this will help them detect crypotjacking threats.
  • Install an ad blocker as ads are a primary source of cryptojacking scripts. Also have extensions like MinerBlock, which is used to identify and block crypto mining scripts.

#7 SQL Injection Attack

A Structured Query Language (SQL) injection attack occurs on a database-driven website when the hacker manipulates a standard SQL query. It is carried by injecting a malicious code into a vulnerable website search box, thereby making the server reveal crucial information. This results in the attacker being able to view, edit, and delete tables in the databases. Attackers can also get administrative rights through this. 

To prevent a SQL injection attack:

  • Use an Intrusion detection system, as they design it to detect unauthorized access to a network.
  • Carry out a validation of the user-supplied data. With a validation process, it keeps the user input in check.

Stanley Ng (Stan) 黄宝明

Stan is a trainer, consultant, and coach for the past 15 years and has personally trained, consulted, and coached over 5,000 professionals from 45 fortune 500 companies. Stan is currently an active VMware Certified Instructor and Google Cloud Authorised Trainer delivering authorised IT trainings. Started his career as an IT engineer in 2005. By 2007, he led a team of 27 professionals from 5 countries managing large projects of over 10,000 users. From 2008 onwards, he started delivering training for fortune 500 companies. 

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