We can’t live without the internet these days. It makes life easier. From grocery shopping to paying bills, most of us are online every day. But with the ease of use comes the challenge of protecting our computers and smart devices from cyber attacks. And, of course, the dangers of data breaches covered by the GDPR UK legislation.
This blog looks at 15 types of cyber attacks and explains what a cyber attack is and how to reduce the likelihood of it happening.
What Is A Cyber Attack?
A cyber attack is when a third party, known as a hacker, attacker or cyber-criminal, gains unauthorized access to an IT system or network. The intention is to expose, steal, alter, destroy or disable the computer system.
Cyber attacks can result in organisations suffering massive financial losses, damaged reputation and loss of customer trust. We’ll take a closer look at these repercussions later in this blog.
Different Types Of Cyber Attacks
There are different types of cyber attacks that can occur. Some are easier to spot or dodge than others, but some are so sinister that you may have no idea that you are under attack. Let’s look at 15 of them.
1. Malware Attack
Malware is malicious software. In a malware attack software is installed with the purpose of infecting the targeted device. This causes changes to how the computer functions, destroys the data held on it and spies on traffic passing through it. Malware doesn’t stay put. It can spread from one device to another.
Phishing attacks are very common. An email containing a clickable link is sent seemingly from a legitimate source, such as your bank or utility provider. Once the victim clicks on the link it takes them to a website where they are fooled into downloading malware.
Attackers who use this method are targeting the ‘big fish’ or ‘whales’ in an organisation, hence the name. Whale-phishing targets include founders and CEO’s of companies.
If a ‘whale’ unwittingly downloads ransomware, there is more chance that they will pay the ransom to prevent the media getting a whiff of a successful attack and harming their reputation as well as that of the company they work for.
Like something out of a Hollywood movie, attackers hold the targeted individual’s system hostage until they agree to pay a ransom. Only after the ransom is paid will the attacker send through instructions on how to regain control of their system.
The ransomware is downloaded from a website or email attachment sent to the victim. The malware then seeks out vulnerabilities in the victim’s system before encrypting their workstation. This method can hit multiple systems simultaneously, denying several parties access to their systems or a central server. This can have a huge impact on business operations.
5. Password Attack
We should all know how important it is to create hard to guess passwords. QWERTY or 12345 will not suffice. Neither will using the same password again and again from one website to another. Hackers uses various stolen credentials such as usernames and passwords to guess a victim’s password. Once they have your password they are then able to take all kinds of malicious actions.
6. Brute Force
This is where an attacker uses basic information about you, like your name, job title or interests to guess your password. It could be as simple as knowing what football team you support, your date of birth or the name of your first school. Bots are often used to crack the password.
7. MITM Attacks
MITM (man-in-the-middle) attacks happen when breaches in existing cyber security give a hacker the opportunity to listen in on data sent back and forth between people (the user), computers or networks. Hence the name ‘man in the middle’ because the cyber criminal positions themselves in the middle of a conversation being had the two parties, unbeknown to them.
They also don’t know that the person sending the messages to them, modifies it before it gets to the other party.
8. Session Hijacking
Session hijacking is a type of MITM attack. This time the hacker settles into position between a client and the server. The Internet Protocol (IP) of the attacker’s computer is swapped for that of the client’s computer. This lets the server continue the session without the client knowing.
9. SQL Injection Attack
Structured Query Language (SQL) injection takes advantage of a website that has a dependency on a database to serve its users. This method basically allows attackers to gain access to data they are not usually privy to, giving them the opportunity to modify, delete or damage data. This in turn causes persistent changes to the way an application behaves or its content.
A command is ‘injected’ into a data system, instead of a password or a user login, altering the servers’ path.
10. Web Attacks
Popping your details into a web application starts a journey. Your command, whatever it may be, generates a response. For example, if you are buying a jumper online, your clicks instruct the application to head over to your bank account and take out the money to pay for it. Attackers are able to infiltrate this journey. SQL injection is a method used for this type of web attack.
11. URL Interpretation
Sometimes referred to as ‘URL poisoning’, this type of attack is where cyber criminals alter URL addresses so that they can gain access to their victim’s confidential data. The attacker mimics the webpage URL to gain access to the websites back office. Once on the page they want, they don’t waste any time in accessing sensitive data about those who use the site.
12. DoS Attacks
DoS stands for denial of service. The aim of this attack is to flood the resources of a system to such an extent that it is literally unable to respond to actual legitimate service requests. Organisations experiencing a DoS attack will find their systems or computer become slow or inaccessible. You may also be unable to connect to the internet.
13. DDoS Attacks
The extra ‘D’ here is for Distributed Denial of Service. Similar to DoS, a DDoS attack is where multiple connected devices are used to overwhelm a single system. The signs of a DDoS attack are similar to a DoS attack: slow network performance, unavailability of a network or service or being unable to access the internet.
14. DNS Spoofing
DNS stands for Domain Name System. Spoofing is where a cyber attacker alters DNS records to send traffic to a ‘spoofed’ website. DNS spoofing can also be used to create a fake website that looks identical to a company’s legitimate website but contains inflammatory content, with the aim to discredit and damage reputation.
15. Drive-by Attacks
Sounding like something out of Grand Theft Auto, a drive-by attack is where a hacker embeds malicious code in a vulnerable and insecure website. The script is ignited once the user visits the site, infecting their computer. Victims merely have to ‘drive-by’ the site to be hit. No need to interact with it.
You’ll notice from the varieties of cyber attacks mentioned above that malware is a feature in a few of them. The National Cyber Security Centre has further interesting information on the varieties of cyber attacks.
How to Prevent Cyber Attacks?
Here are ten things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of an attack.
- Regularly change your passwords. Make them hard to guess but easy for you to remember and don’t use the same one over and over again.
- Update your system and applications regularly. Updates search for vulnerabilities and remove them so that hackers can’t abuse them.
- Use a firewall to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic.
- Don’t open emails from unknown/suspicious sources. Report them.
- Make use of a VPN. This makes sure that it encrypts the traffic between the VPN server and your device.
- Regularly back up your data.
- Train employees on cybersecurity principles. This is a key way to prevent cyber attacks.
- Use Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication. Seems annoying but it really reduces the chances of a hack.
- Only use secure Wi-Fi networks and avoid using public Wi-Fi without a VPN.
- Safeguard your mobile. Only install apps from trusted sources.
The Cost of A Cyber Attack - Case Study
In 2014, American retailer Home Depot suffered a catastrophic cyber attack that saw them receive fines of $200 million.
Vulnerabilities in their cyber security allowed malware to be downloaded, enabling attackers to enter their point-of-sale (POS) system and obtain over 50 million customer credit card numbers and approximately 53 million email addresses.
The data breach took place between April and September 2014. As a result, Home Depot had to pay out approximately $200 million over six years to credit card companies, financial institutions, 46 states and Washington DC and customers affected by the data breach.
Along with these massive fines, the retailer had to employ a qualified CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), ensure that key personnel were highly trained in cyber security and implement policies to ensure such a data breach is unlikely to happen again.
Increase Your Cyber Crime Knowledge
This blog briefly looks at 15 types of cyber attack but there is much more to learn in order to keep your systems safe. Why not increase your knowledge with an e-learning Cyber Security and Data Protection course. Our courses delve into the principles behind cyber security and how best you can keep threats at bay. Don’t wait until a human error causes a data breach that could ruin your business.