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Top 10 Most Common Types of Cyber Security Attacks


A cyber security attack is any attempt by hackers to damage or destroy computers, computer networks, or systems or to obtain confidential information from these systems.

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Successful attacks are increasing significantly. A Thoughtlab survey found that material breaches rose 20.5 percent from 2020 to 2021. It also found that 29 percent of CIOs and CISOs believed their company was unprepared for the increase in threats. Forty percent of chief security officers reported unpreparedness. Companies can prepare to defend against these different types of cyber-attacks by finding cost-effective technologies that reduce exposures and developing a specific cyber strategy. ne Digital can help private equity companies develop an IT security strategy roadmap.

Common Types of Cyber Attacks

Hackers use many tools to invade systems and computers, creating different types of cyber attacks. The most common cyber attacks are Denial of Service, Man-in-the-Middle, phishing, drive-by, password, SQL injection, backdoor, eavesdropping, Internet of Things, and malware.

1. Denial of Service (DOS) and Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOS)

DoS and DDoS attacks overwhelm the system’s resources so that it cannot respond. A DDOS attack is also launched by host machines infected with malicious software.

Hackers launch DoS and DDoS attacks primarily to gain personal satisfaction rather than financial benefit. However, competitors sometimes launch attacks to damage business. Sometimes, hackers launch a DoS attack to force a system offline and make it more receptive to other attacks.

DoS and DDoS attacks are of different types, including

  • Botnets. Botnets refer to the millions of systems infected with malicious software that cause DDoS attacks.
  • Smurf attacks. Smurf attacks use IP spoofing to saturate the network.
  • Ping-of-death attacks. These attacks ping the system with an IP size too great to handle.
  • TCP SYN flood attacks. TCP SYN flood attacks abuse the buffer space during a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) session. The hacker’s system asks to connect but never responds when the target system answers the request.
  • Teardrop attacks. These attacks cause fields in the Internet Protocol packets to overlap on the target, which then forces the attacked system to try to reconstruct the packets and become confused when it fails.

Regardless of the specific type of DoS or DDoS attack, installing and properly configuring firewalls is essential to prevent the attack. Black hole and RFC3704 filtering and the installation of antivirus software also help.

2. Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) refers to incidents where an attacker puts himself between a client and its server. Types of MITM attacks include:

  • Session hijacking, where the cybercriminal hacker hijacks the session between the client and its trusted server. The client is unaware this has occurred and continues to transmit data.
  • IP spoofing in which the system is tricked into thinking it is communicating with a known entity. In IP spoofing, the hacker steals the IP address of the client.
  • Replay, which occurs when an attacker intercepts, saves, and then later tries to send old messages.

Companies can use security techniques such as encryption, digital certificates, certificate authorities, public keys, and hash functions to combat MTM cyber threats.

3. Phishing and Spear Phishing Attacks

In phishing attacks, the hacker sends out emails that appear to come from a trusted authority, such as a bank, and uses social engineering to entice the user to act. If the user falls for the scam, the hacker will gain access to personal or sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. Spear phishing is the same method of attack, but the email includes more personal information about the user to make it seem more genuine.

The best way to fight phishing attacks is through user training. Users should check the full sender email address and scroll their mouse over any links to see the full link. You can also test the email in a sandbox environment. A sandbox environment is an isolated virtual machine where cyber security researchers can observe the link's behavior without potentially affecting the network.

4. Drive-by Attacks

Drive-by attacks occur when a user visits a website or web application containing undetectable malicious code. Sometimes the scripts are on seldom visited websites; however, hackers can also inject malicious javascript on trusted websites via cross-site scripting (XSS). The script either installs malware secretly onto the visitor’s computer or redirects the victim to the hacker’s website.

A robust antivirus software can help prevent drive-by attacks. Keeping browsers up-to-date, avoiding strange websites, and keeping operating systems up to date also can guard against drive-by attacks. Developers can sanitize data user input before reflecting it to prevent XSS attacks.

5. Password Attacks

Hackers typically steal passwords for financial gain. Once they have the passwords, they can sell them to other hackers on the dark web, steal a person’s identity, buy items, or make other financial transactions in the victim’s name.

Cybercriminals steal passwords through a variety of means, including

  • Using malware to capture keystrokes
  • Hacking into password databases
  • Brute force attacks involve auto-generating passwords until one works. These attacks often use the information they may have about the victim, such as a pet’s name, birthplace, or spouse’s name.
  • “Sniffing” network connections. Sniffing involves monitoring the data flow over a network.

6. SQL Injection Attacks

SQL injection attacks primarily occur on data-driven websites. A hacker executes an SQL query to the database. The query inserts malicious SQL commands into it that allow it to damage it, manipulate it, or gain access to all the information in the database. The commands can delete data, shut the database down, or copy the entire database, for example. SQL injection attacks can disrupt company operations. They also can make the company liable for data breaches if hackers gain unauthorized access to personal or sensitive information.

Security measures such as good management of database permissions and staying away from dynamic SQL can help prevent SQL injection attacks.

7. Backdoor Attacks

Computer system backdoors work similarly to home backdoors. Assume a potential burglar sees that security cameras protect the house's front door. So, they go to the back and try to break in that way.

In the cyber security world, a back door refers to any type of attack that tries to get around standard security measures to get into a computer, system, or network. Once they gain access, hackers install malware, steal data, or hijack systems.

The primary way to avoid backdoor attacks is to avoid vulnerabilities in your systems, networks, and computers.

8. Eavesdropping Attacks

In an eavesdropping attack, the hacker intercepts network traffic to steal sensitive data, such as passwords and credit card information. Eavesdropping can be passive or active. In passive eavesdropping, the hacker steals data by listening to network message transmissions. In active eavesdropping, the hacker disguises himself as a friendly unit and sends queries to transmitters.

Stopping passive eavesdropping is extremely important. To be able to eavesdrop actively, the hacker must first have successfully eavesdropped passively to be able to disguise themselves effectively. One of the best ways to strengthen security against this attack is to encrypt data before transmission.

9. Internet of Things (IoT) Attacks

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of objects, machines, or people that can transfer data over a network without human interaction. IoT has revolutionized many industries. The downside, however, is that most organizations deploy multiple IoT devices. The setup increases the possibility of cyber threats in places that have never had cybersecurity problems before. Even a smart toilet or smart coffee machine threat could wreak havoc within the company.

Because of how IoT devices operate, they are extremely susceptible to cyber security attacks for several reasons. The first is that they gather highly detailed data. If the data is stolen or otherwise compromised, the breach could have very negative consequences.

Many IoT devices also can function on the data they receive from their respective environments, which is very convenient. However, this functionality can quickly translate cyber threats to physical consequences.

The growing availability of the devices also allows for complex environments in which the devices can interact dynamically with each other. Finally, many enterprises use a traditional centralized architecture for their IoT systems, which creates a wide attack system.

Security measures can lessen the risk of successful cyber security attacks on IoT systems.

  • Any data or information circulated should be properly mapped.
  • Every device, even the most innocuous, should be considered with a strong username and password combinations, encryption, and multifactor authentication.
  • The organization should acknowledge that even the best security cannot guarantee that no threats will be successful. The organization should create mitigation protocols to contain and reduce the effects of an attack.
  • Companies should ensure that devices that can’t be safeguarded against tampering be kept in a secure place to prevent tampering.

10. Malware

Malware is software designed to disrupt operations or gain unauthorized access to data. The most common types are:

  • Trojan horses or malware that hides inside a non-malicious application that sets up a backdoor.
  • Worms are self-contained programs that are commonly spread using email attachments.
  • Spyware that collects data and information about users, their computers, and their browsing habits without the user's knowledge.
  • Logic bombs append to an application and are triggered by a specific action, such as on a predefined date.
  • Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to the victim’s data and threatens to publish or delete it unless the victim pays a ransom. Ransomware software encrypts the data, so recovery without the hacker’s decryption key is extremely difficult. Ransomware attacks increased 13 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to a Verizon data breach investigation report.
  • Macro viruses occur when the hacker puts a virus into a macro within a Word or Excel file. The victim’s opening of the file launches the malicious code.

Malware can get onto users’ computers in several ways, including by opening an attachment, downloading software from the Internet that secretly contains malware, visiting an infected website or clicking on a fake error message, or opening an email attachment that downloads malware.

Companies can lessen the possibility of a malware attack by taking several precautions. These include:

  • Updating software regularly
  • Avoiding the use of an administrator account
  • Educating users to carefully discern whether to open links or download email attachments and to never respond to popup messages encouraging them to download software
  • Limiting filesharing
  • Using antivirus software

Other Cybersecurity Threats

In addition to the top 10, other types of cyber security attacks are common.

Zero-day Exploit

A zero-day (0day) exploit targets software vulnerabilities unknown to software and antivirus vendors. They are a severe security threat because defenses are not in place. Typical targets are web browsers, emails, and specific file types such as Microsoft Word or Excel, PDF, or Flash.

Birthday Attack

Birthday attacks are made against hashing algorithms that verify the integrity of a message, software, or digital signature. Successful birthday attacks allow the hacker to replace the user’s transmission with theirs and transport malicious code.

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Key Takeaways

Cybercrime is rampant, and cyber security attacks can cause considerable disruption to businesses. Common types of attacks are MITM attacks, denial of service attacks, phishing attacks, malware, password attacks, SQL injection attacks, backdoor attacks, IoT attacks, drive-by attacks, and eavesdropping attacks. Companies can significantly improve their defenses against cyber attacks through staff education, installation of firewalls, the use of robust antivirus software, regular updates, and a decrease in vulnerabilities.

ne Digital can help your private equity firm develop a roadmap to defend against the many types of attacks in cyber security. We can also maintain your security over the long term.

Be prepared for the increase in cyber threats. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Topics: Cybersecurity

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