A cyberattack is any attempt by hackers to breach a computer network or infrastructure. Hackers often target businesses, homes, and IoT devices to steal sensitive information or disrupt business systems.
Common cyberattacks include ransomware, phishing, spyware, adware, and Trojans. These attacks can be prevented by staying informed, following best practices, and keeping antivirus software current.
One of the forms of cyberattacks is malware, which is any software that infiltrates and exploits networks, computers, and other programmable devices to steal data, harm systems, or gain control over users. Cybercriminals use malware for various reasons, from stealing confidential data like credit card or bank account details to blackmailing victims or industrial espionage. Some forms of malware are hard to detect, such as adware that displays unwanted advertisements or ransomware that lock the user’s system until paid.
Other types of malware are more dangerous, such as viruses that replicate and spread to other computers and worms that attack networks from inside computers. Viruses can be incredibly destructive, destroying files and corrupting systems. Worms can also be tough to detect since they replicate without human interaction.
Cybercriminals also use social engineering to trick victims into revealing sensitive information. Phishing is one of the most common examples, where attackers impersonate trusted contacts and send fake emails with malicious links or attachments. It can lead to the victim unknowingly divulging passwords or other confidential data.
Another type of cyberattack is network attacks that target specific vulnerabilities in web applications, operating systems, or networking protocols. For example, SQL injections allow attackers to access a database to collect sensitive information. Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are similar, allowing attackers to insert malicious code into vulnerable websites. IP spoofing will enable attackers to spoof the source address of network packets to manipulate servers and hijack traffic.
Using fake email or social engineering techniques, attackers trick victims into clicking on malicious links and providing sensitive information to hackers. It can include account credentials, passwords, or other valuable information. Attackers can also encrypt data on a victim’s system and demand money for its return. It is called ransomware. Attackers can even use voice-changing software to impersonate a trusted individual and request that a victim call them or visit a website with a fake URL in a man-in-the-middle exploit.
Spyware and adware are cyberattacks that involve installing software applications on a victim’s computer without their knowledge or consent. They’re used for various purposes, including engaging in cyber espionage and delivering ads that generate revenue for attackers. Keyloggers are software that captures the keyboard strokes of a victim, which can include sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers.
While many cyberattacks are carried out by criminal organizations, state actors, and amateur hackers, some do it for fun or to help others avoid falling prey to phishing attacks. This type of hacker is known as a “hacktivist” and may be motivated by political or social causes. The best way to protect against these types of attacks is to be educated about the tactics of attackers and stay vigilant about phishing emails and other online scams.
A botnet is a group of malware-infected computers or zombie devices. They’re controlled remotely by the attacker, called a bot-herder. Using botnets, cybercriminals can perform large-scale illegal operations such as cryptocurrency mining or flood servers with heavy web traffic to bring them down. They can also use them to spread spam and phishing or DDoS attacks.
The size of a botnet can range from a few compromised machines to tens of thousands or even millions. Attackers use Trojan horse virus software to secretly install bot malware on personal computers and Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as routers, security cameras, and innovative home systems. Some bots can even automatically find and infect other devices on the network without user input.
Bots can be used for many different purposes and are typically operated by criminal organizations, state actors, professional hackers, or hacktivists. More common motivations for attacking a computer or network include:
- Corporate espionage.
- Stealing sensitive information like login credentials or financial information.
- Exploiting software or hardware supply chain vulnerabilities.
But hackers can also hack for fun and enjoy the intellectual challenge of it all. Hackers can also act out of ill intent to harm others and disrupt public services. In the latter case, they’re considered hostile actors and may be prosecuted under national and international law.
Using hacking tools to penetrate your network, hackers steal sensitive information or take control of your device. Often, they can only do this by gaining entry through a careless employee who clicks on a malicious link or opens a spam email. While security policies can help defend against some of these entry points, it’s crucial to understand how cybercriminals gain access to your network in the first place so that you can put safeguards in place.
An attacker uses spoofing to trick a system into believing it’s communicating with another trusted entity, granting the hacker access to the device and its data. Examples of spoofing attacks include IP spoofing (also known as ARP spoofing), which reroutes an incoming packet with the source address of a different, authenticated host, and replay attacks, where the hacker saves a pack and sends it again at a later time.
Trojan horses disguise themselves as valuable programs to lure users into installing them. Once installed, they allow the attacker to access a user’s computer or install additional malware remotely. Examples of Trojans include remote access Trojans and dropper Trojans. Ransomware is malware that holds a victim’s system or files hostage and demands payment to unlock them.
A ping-of-death attack occurs when an attacker fragments an IP packet, making it difficult for the target system to reassemble them correctly. To protect against this attack, you can block ICMP echo broadcast requests on your network devices.