CYBERSECURITY ATTACKS HAVE ONE PRIMARY GOAL, I.E., TO STEAL YOUR DATA OR FINANCIAL INFORMATION.

Today, one of the biggest targets for cybercriminals is small to mid-sized organizations. However, certain hacker groups can even bring down entire nations and threaten country-wide government departments.

For instance, you’ve probably heard of the Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack that threatened the gas supply to the entire East Coast. Despite extensive efforts by the country’s top agencies, including the F.B.I., Colonial Pipeline ended up paying 4.4 million to DarkSide to regain control of its IT systems.

As you can see, cybersecurity is a critical concern in the digital age that organizations cannot afford to overlook.

Cybersecurity is the ultimate method for protecting sensitive information, data, and systems against digital cybersecurity attacks. You can also refer to it as Information Technology (IT) security. Cybersecurity measures are set to tackle threats against network systems and applications.

The Ultimate Guide To Cybersecurity Attacks

Cybercrime increases yearly as attackers improve their efficiency and sophistication in hacking your network system. As per reports, in 2020, the average data breach cost was $8.64 million in the United States and $3.86 million globally.

These costs include downtime, finding and reacting to the breach, lost revenue, and long-term reputational damage caused to a business and its brand.

Cyber attacks happen for several different reasons. Different types of malware can attack or penetrate your digital network differently.

However, a common thread is that cybercriminals look forward to exploiting vulnerabilities in an organization’s security technology, practices, or policies.

Imagine how frightening it is to lose all your data and money to recover it.

Most importantly, a cybersecurity attack risks your organization’s reputation.

Here in this article, you will discover every bit and piece about cybersecurity attacks, from what exactly is a digital attack to what precautions you should take so that you do not have to face such situations in the future.

We will also cover everything from ransomware attacksphishing scams, and malware, including mobile malware, that can compromise your network.

What is a Cybersecurity Attack?

A cybersecurity attack attempts to gain unauthorized access to your computer’s system or network to steal sensitive information. A cyberattack aims to disable, disrupt, destroy, or control your computer systems. It can block, alter, manipulate, delete, or steal the data held within these systems.

Today, anyone can launch a cyberattack from anywhere in the world using one or more attack strategies. People or groups who carry out cyberattacks are generally considered cybercriminals. They are often called hackers, threat actors, and bad actors.
They either work with other bad actors or belong to a criminal syndicate that seeks to identify drawbacks or weaknesses in your computer systems, called vulnerabilities.

Hackers exploit these vulnerabilities to breach your network and steal sensitive information to hold entire corporations and countries hostage.

Government-sponsored groups of computer specialists also project cyberattacks. Also known as nation-state attackers, these groups have been charged with attacking other governments’ information technology (IT) and nongovernment entities and infrastructure, such as nonprofits, businesses, utilities, etc.

Why Do Cybersecurity Attacks Happen?

The only purpose of cybersecurity attacks is to cause damage. These attacks can have various objectives, including the following:

  • Financial Gain

Cybercriminals launch most attacks, especially against commercial entities, for financial gain. These attacks usually aim at stealing sensitive information, such as employee personal data or customer credit card numbers. Then, hackers use these pieces of information to access goods or money using the victims’ identities.

Other attacks for financial gain are designed to disable your computer systems, with cybercriminals locking all the computers in your network.

Consequently, authorized users or owners cannot access the data or information they need. The criminals then demand a ransom to unlock the targeted organizations’ computer systems.

That’s why these attacks are also referred to as ransomware attacks. Other attacks aim at gaining valuable corporate data, such as propriety information. These cybersecurity attacks are a computerized and modern form of corporate spying.

  • Disruption and Revenge

Hackers also launch cyberattacks to build chaos, discontent, confusion, frustration, or mistrust. In addition, these attacks are sometimes an act of revenge for the actions taken against them.

These revenge attacks aim to embarrass the organization publicly or damage its reputation and are often directed toward government entities but can also hit nonprofit or commercial organizations.

Cybersecurity attacks can also originate from employees with malicious intent, known as insider threats. Hackers, called hacktivists, might initiate these attacks as a protest against the targeted organizations.

Anonymous, an intimate, decentralized group of internationalist activists, is the most well-known among such groups. At the same time, most of these attacks are carried out by nation-state hackers.

  • Cyberwarfare

Governments worldwide also engage in cyberattacks. Many national governments acknowledge or are suspected of planning and directing attacks against other countries as part of continuous economic, political, and social disputes. These types of attacks are categorized as cyberwarfare.

How Do Cybersecurity Attacks Work?

At this point, you may already know that skilled attackers carry out these attacks. But, shockingly, these cybersecurity attacks consist of repeated stages.

Understanding the different types of cyberattacks and the involvement of various stages will help you defend your organization and yourself in a better manner.
These group attacks can be categorized into two primary types-

The groundwork for these attacks can take a few weeks or months as the hackers try to find the best way to infiltrate your systems.

A targeted attack is often more destructive than an un-targeted one because it has been mainly designed to attack your processes, systems, or personnel.

Attackers use techniques that exploit the internet’s openness to carry out this vicious act.

  • Untargeted Attacks: The attackers aimlessly target as many services, devices, or users as possible. They do not care about the victim’s identity, as several machines or services have vulnerabilities.

 

  • Targeted Attacks: In a targeted attack, your organization is the only one under the radar because the hackers have a distinct interest in your business or have been paid to attack you.

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The Most Common Types of Cybersecurity Attacks

Cyberattacks most commonly involve the following:

1. Malware-Based Attacks (Ransomware, Trojans, etc.)

Malware is “malicious software” designed to disturb or steal data from your network, computer, or server.

Attackers con you into installing malware on your devices. After the installation, a malicious script runs in the background, bypassing your security, giving hackers the key to your sensitive information and the opportunity to seize control.

Malware is one of the most used cyberattacks. And there are multiple variations of this malicious software that you should be aware of:

  • Ransomware

This type of malware encrypts the essential files on your system, making it difficult to access them until you pay a “ransom” (mainly in cryptocurrency). There was an increase of nearly 1,885% in ransomware attacks worldwide in 2021.

Some common ransomware types are Crypto, Locker, Double Extortion, Leakware, RaaS (Ransomware as a Service), and scareware ransomware.
According to the cyber threat report of 2022, the volume of ransomware attacks increased by 105% globally. Additionally, in 2021 the percentage of attacks in the U.S. increased by 232% since 2019. Researchers documented over 623 million ransomware attacks worldwide.

  • Adware

So, what is adware? It is a malware type that displays malicious and unwanted advertisements on your device. Adware is harmless but highly annoying as the ads keep popping up constantly. The continuous ads can make the users click on them and download more harmful malware on their computers.

Some of the significant adware types are listed below:

  1. Legitimate Adware
  2. Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs)
  3. Legal Abusive Adware PUA
  4. Legal Deceptive Adware PUA
  5. Illegal, Malicious Adware PUA

You’ll need to be careful of any shady websites to prevent the adware from getting downloaded on your system. In addition, it would help to be cautious when downloading shareware or freeware.

You can just download these programs only from reputed websites that you trust. While browsing, you should be aware of clicking on any pop-ups and advertisements.

  • Fileless Malware

Fileless malware does not directly affect your files. Instead, this malware infects your computer with non-file objects like WMI, Microsoft Office macros, PowerShell, and other system features.

This malware is nearly undetectable and keeps stealing sensitive data and information from your devices for months before getting noticed.

  • Spyware

As the name suggests, this type of malware spies on your movements and actions to send the data back to the hacker. These pieces of information could include logins, bank details, and passwords.

To protect yourself from this malware that tracks your internet activity, use anti-spy software, update your system, avoid pop-ups, and watch your email.

  • Mobile Malware

This malware type is the mobile version of malicious software that infects mobile devices. Mobile malware comes in different forms, and there are multiple ways to steal and infect smartphone data.

If your organization depends on mobile phones for business or allows staff members to use their devices, they are especially vulnerable to such attacks.

  • Keyloggers

Keyloggers are like spyware, except for your activities. Everything you type, especially the site you type it in, is sent to the hacker and is used for blackmail or identity theft.

  • Trojans

Named after the famous Trojan horse, this malware “hides” inside legitimate software. For example, you can download antivirus software only to infect your device with malicious code or software.

  • Bots

A bot is a specially-designed software program that performs the same repeated actions without any external interference. A system with bot malware can infect the whole network. This, in turn, creates a network of infected private computers that are controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge; this network is called a botnet.

Using the botnet technique, attackers use your entire network of systems to launch vigorous attacks. Meanwhile, the users of these systems need to be made aware of how their device is being used.

Bots can launch large attacks that can bring down entire companies or countries. That’s what makes these types of malware attacks particularly dangerous.

  • Viruses

Viruses attach to your device’s programs and files and get triggered as soon as you open them. Once active, a virus can replicate itself without your knowledge. It further slows down your device or destroys data.

There are also “worms,” viruses that travel throughout your network from one infected computer to another, giving hackers remote access to your entire network.

Along with businesses and organizations, these malware attacks can also target individuals. For example, clicking on a link in a phishing email makes you a cyberattack victim. So, please look carefully at your emails before opening any unknown links.

In May 2021, JBS USA, the world’s largest meat supplier, got hit with a ransomware attack that led to production being shut down at many of their plants. As a result, the company ended up paying a ransom of $11 million in Bitcoin to control further damage.

2. DOS And DDoS Attacks

A Denial of Service (DoS) is a cyberattack that floods your system or network to a point where it cannot respond to requests. A distributed DoS (DDoS) attack originates from your computer network.

Cyber attackers primarily use a flood attack to disturb the process of carrying out a DoS. However, some attackers may use various other techniques to launch these attacks.

A botnet is a type of DDoS in which millions of systems can be contaminated with malware and controlled by hackers. Botnets, sometimes also known as zombie systems, target and overpower the processing capabilities of a system. Botnets are hard to trace as they belong to separate geographic locations.

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3. Phishing Attacks (Spear Phishing, Whaling, etc.)

A phishing attack occurs when a cyber-attacker sends you fake emails, texts (called “smishing“), or phone calls (called “vishing“). These look like official messages from a person or business you trust, such as your bank or companies like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, etc. But these messages are sent from breachers asking you for sensitive information, such as your password, so they can use it to take over your accounts. Phishing and smishing messages consist of a link or open an email attachment that may instruct you to click on it. Clicking on the link downloads malware on your device or sends you to a phishing site created to steal your sensitive information. Phishing attacks aim at a wide net and do not target specific individuals. However, a few new phishing cyber-attacks are more targeted and harder to spot. These include:
  • Spear Phishing

Spear phishing attacks are usually email scams targeting a specific individual or organization. The hacker uses your personal information found in your online footprint and on social media or bought on the Dark Web to make it more trustworthy to get you to click on the link.

  • Whaling

A whale phishing attack aims at high-profile hacking, like CEOs and executives. The objective is to steal their credentials and get access to their company’s network. One could say that CEO scams are now a $26-billion-a-year industry.

  • Angler Phishing Attacks

An Angler attack is a unique phishing scam in which a hacker “tricks” users on social media by faking a customer service account of a well-known company.

Scammers create accounts like “@AmazonHelp$” by providing you with links to talk to a “rep.” But these are specially designed scams to steal your data.

Nobody wants to fall for a phishing scam. To prevent such attacks, follow these simple tips below:

  1. Keep your employees informed about phishing attacks
  2. Think Before You Click!
  3. Install an Anti-Phishing Toolbar
  4. Verify a Site’s Security before clicking on it
  5. Check Your Online Accounts Regularly
  6. Keep Your Browser Up to Date
  7. Use Firewalls
  8. Be Wary of Pop-Ups
  9. Never Give Out Personal Information
  10. Use Antivirus Software

4. SQL Injection Attacks

Most websites use SQL databases for storing sensitive information like account information, logins, and passwords. Bad actors use an SQL injection attack to manipulate the database into giving up this sensitive information.

These are little technical attacks. Instead, they come down to scammers penetrating the predefined SQL commands into a data-entry box (like a login or password field). These commands can modify database data, read sensitive information, or even trigger functions like shutting down your system.

In 2021, 70 gigabytes of data were stolen from Gab through an SQL injection attack.

 

A few of the SQL types include the following:

  • Unsanitized Input
  • Content-based SQL Injection
  • Time-based SQL Injection
  • Blind SQLi
  • Inferential (Blind) SQLi
  • In-band SQLi

The most suitable way to prevent SQL Injections is to use safe programming functions that make SQLi impossible, like the stored procedures and parameterized queries (prepared statements).

Almost every primary programming language nowadays has such secure functions, and every individual should only use such safe functions when working with the database.

5. Password Attacks

A cyber attacker can access a wealth of information with the correct password.

There are a few different password attacks you need to be aware of:

Password Spraying – This is when scammers attempt to use the same password across many accounts.

For example, around 3.5 million Americans use similar passwords like “123456”.

Brute Force – A brute force attack occurs when hackers build software for trying different combinations of passwords and usernames until they find one that works.

They often use logins circulated on the Dark Web as many people reuse passwords across accounts, known as the “Dictionary” method.

Social Engineering – Social engineering attacks happen when hackers use psychological tricks to mislead you into giving up your password.

For example, they might use a phishing email from your bank and trick you into “verifying” your account details.

To prevent password attacks, one must “enforce strong password policies.” Also, your passwords should not be filled out with personally identifying information, which may promote dictionary attacks.

6. Rootkits

Rootkits are malware that gives hackers authority and administrator-level keys to the target system. Rootkits hide deep inside your computer’s operating system, making them difficult to detect and extremely dangerous.

A rootkit allows the bad actors to steal sensitive data and information, lodge keyloggers, or even delete antivirus software.

For example, in 2016, an Android device malware was found downloading rootkits to users’ devices—this further led to the theft of over one million Google account credentials.

7. Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is a cyberattack that secretly operates your device’s processing power to dig up cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. This hacking process severely slows down your computer systems and causes other potential vulnerabilities.

Cryptojacking is a malicious type of cybercrime that is usually unnoticeable. But there are specific steps that you can follow to limit the possibility of your system or network getting cryptojacked:

  • Disable Javascript
  • Use an adblocker
  • Use browser extensions for detecting crypto mining scripts, such as minor block and NoMiner

How Can You Prevent A Cybersecurity Attack?

There is no secure way to prevent cybersecurity attacks, but organizations can follow certain cybersecurity practices to lower the risk.
Reducing a Cybersecurity attack’s threat depends on using various processes, skilled security professionals, and technology.
Decreasing the risk also involves three broad categories:

  1. Controlling the attempted attacks from penetrating the organization’s IT systems.
  2. Noticing intrusions; and
  3. Disrupting attacks already in motion, ideally at the earliest possible time.

Conclusion

We hope this article helps you better understand cybersecurity attacks and how dangerous they can be for your organization. And keep in mind that Mobile Malware is on the rise and will be the primary mode of attack in the coming days.

You can see many different ways cybercriminals and hackers can breach your system. Therefore, you must have a fully-layered cyber security system to protect your organization.

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