What is a Cyberattack?
A cyberattack is a malicious activity that cybercriminals launch using different tactics against systems and networks. Hackers use cyberattacks to expose, gain unauthorized access, alter, steal, destroy, or make unauthorized use of information assets.
Cybercriminals engage in offensive maneuvers that target information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, and personal devices to access information, restricted areas, and controls of systems without authorization.
- A cyberattack is a malicious activity that hackers launch to steal data and disable systems
- Cybercriminals use various methods like malware, ransomware, and denial of service to launch cyberattacks
- A cyberattack can be active, passive, insider, or outsider incident
- About 3.5 billion people lost their data in the top two of the 15 most significant cyberattacks.
- In the first six months of 2017, cyberattacks impacted 2 billion data records, and ransomware payments reached US $2 billion.
- Various cybercriminals, including groups and individuals, employ cyber attacks with malicious intent.
Impacts of Cyberattacks
Individuals, groups, sovereign states, societies, activists, and other organizations employ cyber attacks with malicious intent.
A cyberattack can result in various unfavorable effects, such as disabling computers and systems, stealing data, and using breached devices to launch attacks on other computers.
Types of Cyberattacks
Cybercriminals use different methods and tools to launch a cyberattack on their target. Depending on the hacker’s intent, a cyberattack can be targeted or random. Cybercriminals devise new ways to throw targets off their defenses.
A cyberattack can be active or passive. An active attack attempts to alter system resources and affect their operations. A passive attack attempts to learn or make use of information from the target without affecting the system resources.
A cyberattack can originate from outside or inside the organization. The unauthorized or illegitimate user causes an outside attack. These external attackers include hostile governments, pranksters, organized criminals, script kiddies, and international terrorists.
An inside attack originates from an entity inside the security perimeter. An insider can be an employee, vendor, or contractor authorized to access system resources and information but uses them in an unapproved manner.
Some of the cyberattacks include:
- Malware – this is a form of malicious software that harms computer users. Malware includes dangerous programs like computer viruses, worms, spyware, trojan horses, and adware.
- Ransomware –ransomware is a prevalent malware that hackers use to lock a victim’s computer files through encryption and demanding payment to unlock the files
- Social engineering – this cybersecurity threat leverages human interaction and trust to trick users into performing actions that enable criminals to steal sensitive information
- Phishing – Phishing is a form of fraud where hackers send fraudulent emails and messages that resemble details from reputable sources. Phishing attacks enable cybercriminals to steal sensitive information, such as credit card and login credentials.
- Denial of service attacks – hackers cause a denial of service attack by sending overwhelming traffic to networks and servers, therefore preventing systems from meeting legitimate requests
- Man-in-the-middle (MITM) – cybercriminals use MITM attacks to secretly interpose between users and a web service they are trying to access. MITM allows attackers to harvest any information the user sends to the service
- SQL Injection – in this attack, a hacker exploits a flaw to take control of a victim’s databases. The hacker writes Structured Query Language (SQL) commands into a web form that collects user information such as name and addresses. Poorly programmed websites and databases will execute the malicious commands
This list is not exhaustive. The industry OWASP Foundation maintains a list of the top 10 cyberattacks hackers use against web applications. You can have a look at the list on OWASP’s website.
Popular Cyberattacks Incidents
Today, cyberattacks affecting millions of users are far too common. About 3.5 billion people lost their data in the top two of the 15 biggest cyberattacks.
Some of the most prominent incidents in recent memory include:
- Adobe – in October 2013, hackers stole 153 million user records belonging to Adobe customers. The information included usernames, hashed passwords, customer names, IDs, debit, and credit card information. An August 2015 agreement called for Adobe to pay $1.1 million in legal fees and an undisclosed amount to settle user claims for violating the Customer Records Act.
- Adult Friend Finder – Hackers breached the Adult Friend Finder in mid-October 2016. The stolen data spanned 20 years on six databases and included names, email addresses, and passwords of approximately 412 million accounts.
- Canva – Australian graphic design tool Canva experienced an attack that exposed email addresses, usernames, names, location addresses, and passwords of 139 million users. The hackers also managed to view files with partial credit card and payment information.
- Equifax – Hackers exploited an application vulnerability in one of Equifax’s websites, compromising the personal information (social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, drivers’ license numbers) of 143 million customers. The breach also exposed credit card data of more than 200,000 users.