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Attack

What is a Cyber Attack?

What is a Cyber Attack?

In the world of vulnerabilities, where multiple threats and dangers are always eying for virtual assets, keeping data/information/resources is tough. Everyone is worried and afraid of Cyber-attacks, which is counted among the top-used ways to exploit digital assets. 

Generally a broader term, cyber-attack covers many ill-intended actions to harm the data/resources. The word is used for any unwelcomed access attempt to a given system/computer/device. 

Learn more about cyber-attack in detail.

Learning Objectives

Cyber attack definition

Cyber-attack is an extensive term that has far-reaching meaning and implications. In layman's language, it’s the offensive process, adopted by a hacker/threat actor, to harm the digital assets of an individual or an organization. The impacting assets could be computers, laptops, networks, servers, information systems, security infrastructures, and many more. 

The core aim of a cyber-attack is to gain admin-like access to the targeted asset or corrupt it so that the stored information could be accessed or related functions can malfunction.

Who is responsible?

Cyber-attacks are generally planned plus executed by an ill-intended individual or group, commonly known as cybercriminal, hacker, or threat actor, or by a criminal group/organization. They can be outside or inside resources.

  • Outside resources 

When a third-party criminal organization, professional hackers, or state-sponsored actors cause a cyber-attack, it is considered an outsider threat. 

The attackers don’t have any personal grievance against the target and don’t even know them well. It’s just that they spot a vulnerability in the target’s security system or infrastructure and make it work for their benefit.

  • Insider resources 

These are the trusted professionals who already have verified access to the digital assets of an organization. Sometimes, such professionals exploit these assets for personal gains. 

Mostly, cyber-attacks by insider resources involve careless employees, a discarded employee having access to crucial information, or agitated business partners/client/contractor. 

They misuse the trust laid upon them and exploit the resources. However, cyber-attacks, happening via insider resources, aren’t always pre-planned. At times, they could be accidentally also. 


What are cybercriminals targeting?

Past observations have revealed that most of the attacks are driven by financial motives. However, we have also seen cybercriminals conducting an attack just to prove their excellence. So, there is no hard-and-fast rule to claim what would be the target of an attack. However, most of the attacks target things like:

  • Financial data of an individual or an organization
  • Customer or employee database
  • Financial data of customers/employees/partners/stakeholders
  • Login details of the device and other resources
  • Critical documents that involve tenders, business proposals, contracts, and many more
  • Legal details like partnership details, company stake distribution, and so on.

Types of Cyber Attacks

We can classify by the attacks in cyber world on the based of its process and resource impact. Their varieties, in such a scenario, will be numerous. Here is a quick overview of key cyber-attack types:

  1. Man-in-the-middle attack

MitM method involves introducing the threat actor as a legitimate resource between two parties that could be a computer system and a server or a server and web application. 

With the forced introduction in the middle of 2 parties, the attack becomes a part of information exchange and other processes and steals crucial information.

  1. DoS and DDoS attack

Denial of service (DoS) and Distributed DoS (DDoS) involve stopping verified resources to access a particular system/website by sending overflowing access requests. 

For instance, an attacker can send multiple access requests to a CRM software of an organization to keep it busy so that legitimate professionals fail to access it in the time of need. Mainly, it’s used to plan a more damaging attack in the future.

  1. SQL injection

These attacks are made through the SQL-based ill-intended codes introduced to the vulnerable system/applications. Upon successful introduction, a SQL injection can collect the query results, give new commands to the systems, and perform prohibited actions on success.

  1. Zero-day exploit

This term is used for cyber-attacks that remain unnoticed for many days, or sometimes, for months. Usually, zero-day exploits take place by taking advantage of any hardware/software weaknesses. The intensity of 0-day attacks is generally low in the beginning and lasts for longer. 

  1. DNS Tunneling

Cyber-attacks happening via exploiting the DNS tunneling, a well-known transactional protocol, are not very uncommon. Attackers can use them for their gains and can steal crucial information. As the involved protocol deals with data exchange processes of the application, organizations need to be very careful against it.

  1. Phishing

A highly nuisance-creating cyber-attack type, phishing involves using corrupted emails to steal sensitive information. Threat actors will send tempting emails like’ you have won a prize’, ‘you got an offer, a loan is approved, and many others to lure the target cyber attack and will ask them to click on a particular link and share details like credit card details, bank info, CVV data, and many more. 

The emails are crafted with such perfection that it seems they have come up from trusted sources. Phishing accounts for nearly half of the total cyber-attacks happening in the world.

  1. Malware

Malware cyber-attack involves introducing corrupted software into the targeted system to steal the information or malfunction it completely. The malware used for these attacks is of various types, e.g., Trojan, Remote Access Trojan, spyware, worms, and ransomware.

  1. XSS attacks

XSS or cross-scripting attack is basically a security vulnerability targeting the web application at large. A successful XSS attack will allow an attacker to introduce client-side scripts to the targeted web application page. Often, the attack is used to bypass the access control policies imposed on a web application.

  1. Social engineering

It is a type of cyber-attack based on the psychological manipulation of the target. Unlike other cyber-attacks, it needs the expertise to bend the human bind, use emotional biases, and track personal/sensitive information. This technique is used most often for intrusions and has a very high success rate.

  1. Ransomware

A subcategory of malware attack, ransomware attack involves threatening the victim to leak or publish the crucial information on the public domain if the asked ransom amount is not paid. 

At the beginning of the attack, the hacker implants ransomware into the targeted victim’s system that decrypts the stored data and forwards it to the hacker. Some of the most common ways to introduce ransomware are phishing, adware, and USB drives.

  1. Cryptojacking

One of the most recent and nuisance-creating cyber-attack, cryptojacking aims only at the cryptocurrency owners. Hackers gain the access to your resources and start the cryptomining process. The cost of this resource-intensive job will now be paid by victim’s resources/network while the gain will of intruders.

types of cyber attack

What are cyber attacks for? 

The intention behind a cyber-attack can be anything from information theft to money theft. Some of the key reasons behind carrying out a cyber-attack are as follows.

Most of the cyber-attacks are planned to gain monetary gain. At the very least, cyber-attack can bring multiple benefits to the attacker, if successful. 

The gain could be in million dollars. As per the recent IBM report, the average loss incurred because of a cyber-attack is near $3.86 million, which is a huge sum.

The second main reason behind a cyber-attack is to gain business intelligence. By gaining passwords, access information, sensitive information, and other information, hackers want to control a specific business or enterprise to display their supremacy. 

We have witnessed incidents where a hacker stole crucial information and leaked it on the dark web for free.

Some cyber-attack is state-sponsored and took place because of political motives. 

Some of the cyber attack examples are explained next.

Russia’s attack on the Ukraine-based power grid, which happened in 2016, and the Iranian state attack on the APT33 group.

Hacktivism is a type of cyber-attack that is based on spreading political awareness to the public. For instance, WikiLeaks has already carried out cyber-attacks against political organizations to bring corruption, internal conspiracy, and many other issues to the surface.

Some cyber-attacks are motivated because of personal grievances against a person or an organization. For instance, an employee can do data theft s/he wasn’t granted the due promotion. 

There are white-hat hackers, involved in ethical or good-intent hacking, carrying out cyber-attacks for reasons like surfacing the hidden threats or testing the defense mechanism of an organization.

Sometimes, hackers carry out a cyber-attack just because data was readily available or the end-user is not aware of best security practices. They use this opportunity to test their skills, try their hand on the new hacking skill, and show their supremacy.


What companies were affected by the cyber attack

In a world where more than 440,000 companies are affected by cyber-attack, it’s hard to remain safe. Many small and big companies have been victims of cyberattacks. Here is an overview of a few famous and damaging cyberattack examples that happened in past and recent times.

  1. Colonial pipeline cyber attack

Date - May 7, 2021

Colonial Pipeline is a Texas-based gas pipeline company that becomes a victim of a ransomware attack. As a result of the attack, the attacker asked for $4.4 million as a ransom amount. As a result of the attack, a regional emergency was declared in 17 US states. 

As per history, it’s one of the largest and most damaging attacks ever happened in the oil industry. Investigation revealed that the DarkSide hacking group was behind this attack as well as behind the stealing of 100-gigabyte data. The key impacted component was the billing system of the oil company. 

  1. Solarwinds cyber attack

Date - December 13, 2020

One of the most complex and tedious cyber-attacks of all time, the Solarwinds cyber-attack impacted the supply chain of the organization as the Orion software platform and its updates were impacted badly.

The attack targeted Orion software, introducing a malware named Sunburst to it. It could gain access to multiple customers’ systems for the threat actors. Many big companies like VMware, Microsoft, and US agencies were impacted. 

Further inquiry confirmed that the attack was carried out by a Russian hacker and aimed to access the production environment and end-user ecosystems of SolarWinds, Microsoft 365, and Azure cloud. It caused huge havoc as entities, not using the SolarWinds, were also impacted by the attack. 

  1. JBS cyber attack 

Date - May 30, 2021

JBS is a Brazil-based meat processing company having worldwide significance. Despite the robust security measures, the organization was under a ransomware threat when its network infrastructure was hacked. 

The hacker asked for a ransom of $11 million to remove the ransomware from the system. 

This incident impacted JBS’s operations in places like the US, Australia, and Canada for a while and JBS paid the ransom to the attacker in the form of bitcoins. 

  1. Apache Log4j Vulnerability 

Date - December 9th, 2021 

Apache is a very famous system and is used by big names of the industry. On December 9th, 2021, its Log4j2 library was figured out with a vulnerability and within a few hours, millions of software/systems were impacted. The vulnerability is known as CVE-2021-44228 and affected the logging capabilities of the Apache Log4j. 

Alibaba’s cloud security professional, Chen Zhaojun spotted this vulnerability. The loophole was so strong that the industry scored it 10/10 on the severity score. 

Because of the vulnerability, the hacker was able to carry out a remote code execution attack on the system and made the server/system behave as per their will. Minecraft, an online game, was severely impacted by this vulnerability Other than it, Twitter, Cloudflare, Apple iCloud, and Stream were also impacted. 

As a remedy, Apache instructed its users to update the Log4j2 library and use its version 2.15.0. 

How to prevent a cyber attack?

Even though a cyber-attack can be too detrimental and harmful, keeping resources safe from it is possible, provided you adopt the industry’s best protective measures.

  1. Anti-virus software and firewall

Using anti-virus software and firewall is one of the easiest yet most powerful means to keep the unwanted nuisances at bay as the tool can filter every incoming traffic and activity happening on the device and identify the malicious contents. 

As everything is automated, not much effort is invested with this tool.

  1. Regular updates of all systems

With each system/OS, some advanced security features are offered to the end-users. Updated systems/OS tend to be less prone to a cyber-attack. 

  1. Internal Controls

Enforcing strict internal control strategies is an expert-recommended way to prevent or reduce cyber-attack incidents. Make sure all the resources have access control imposed so that only the trusted and verified resources use them. 

  1. Data backups

With regular data-back, you’re ready for the worst-case scenario and have less chance of losing crucial data even if there is a cyber-attack.

  1. Firewalls

A firewall is a technologically-advanced tool monitoring the incoming and outgoing traffic and keeping harmful elements at bay. Its deployment ensures that the system network is protected and cyber-attack incidents are on the lower side.

  1. Monitoring and detection

Every resource, activity, and third-parties should be under the radar all the time so that any sort of malicious activity is spotted in the infancy stage. There should be an extensive monitoring system in place.

  1. Staff training

Employees that are well-aware of the importance of cybersecurity are a viable defense mechanism against cyber-attacks as they won’t entertain any ill-content, grant access to unauthorized professionals, and will not expose resources to phishing attacks. Organizations should conduct cyber-security training to train new employees and have multiple awareness programs.


How can Wallarm help?

What makes cyber-attacks tough to manage is their diversity. It exists in various types and forms, as explained above. While few types are similar in mode of action, some are entirely distinct from each other. Hence, one preventive measure isn’t going to help at all. One needs to have a multifaceted approach to deal with cyber-attacks of all types and kinds.

At Wallarm, one has the opportunity to create a multi-dimensional protective strategy that will counter cyber-attack from all directions. 

Here is what one can get from Wallarm, a modern-era API security platform:

  1. Web Application Firewall 

Wallarm offers a highly feature-rich cloud WAF that is capable of protecting a wide range of assets such as APIs, serverless workloads, microservices, and web applications. Its set-up is simple and doesn’t demand high-end expertise. 

The WAF is well-known for its zero false positives and all-inclusive protection. The tool can protect resources from dangers like OWASP Top 10 Threats, account takeover, data theft, and many more. This is a one-of-its-kind WAF available in the market offering a fully automated incident analysis feature. With no installation and continual update hassles, the cloud WAF of Wallarm is a hassle-free way to keep applications safe in any ecosystem. 

  1. API Security 

Wallarm has an inventive API security platform offering an advanced API threat prevention facility. It is useful in any kind of cloud environment, can safeguard all the leading API types, and offer protection against a wide range of threats. As API is the spine of every mobile and web application, protecting it means protecting the rest of the product. 

The API security platform is equipped with features like API threat prevention, API Discovery, and Incidence Response. As every process is automated, the platform saves a huge deal of time and effort while proffering best-of-breed API security.

  1. API security testing

With Wallarm’s automated API security testing facility, FAST, it’s easy to discover API vulnerabilities in the early stage, take remedial actions, and stop future API damage. Security approaches can be implemented in Jenkins/CircleCI/GitLab CI pipelines in the blink of an eye with the help of FAST. 

The tool is based on the DevSecOps approach, which is a step ahead of the traditional approach and is very effective. With this API testing approach, it’s easy to keep API protected throughout the journey and eliminate the error/hacking possibilities. Also try our free tool and check if your protection works - GoTestWAF

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