11 Most Common Types of Cybersecurity Attacks

Shivam Jha

Shivam Jha

Feb 23, 2024

According to a report by business insurer Hiscox, organizations suffered a loss of $1.8 billion because of cybersecurity attacks in 2019. This statistic, along with the fact that many companies moved their assets to the cloud, makes it evident that the need for a better cybersecurity posture for companies is at an all-time high. 

Cybersecurity attacks are a growing concern among businesses. Storing sensitive company and customer data increases the risk of exposure multifold. Dealing with malicious actors and cyberattacks drives up costs, which may have catastrophic consequences. In this article, we take a look at 11 of the most common types of cybersecurity attacks and how to avoid them.

TL, DR
  • Cyber attacks can disrupt operations, damage reputation, and can have financial repercussions.
  • Common types of attacks include malware, phishing, password attacks, etc.
  • Backup your data, educate the workforce, and use cybersecurity risk management procedures to minimize incidents
  • Automated solutions can help you safeguard against cyber attacks and ensure compliance.
  • Sprinto can help you build a pipeline of controls and keep security and compliance in check.

What is a cyber security attack?

A cybersecurity attack is an attempt aimed at disrupting, compromising, disabling, destroying, or maliciously controlling a computing environment or infrastructure. Threat or malicious actors carry out cyberattacks for a variety of motives, including small-time thievery to acts of intimidation, organizational destabilization, or even war. They employ a number of strategies, including virus attacks, phishing, and password theft, to acquire unauthorized access.

How do cybersecurity attacks harm your organization?

A cyberattack can do significant damage to your company in a number of ways. It may have an impact on your reputation or cause customers to lose confidence in your business.  With that in mind, here are some other ways in which cybercrime can harm businesses.

1. Financial disruption

A cyberattack can put a company into huge financial loss. For example, the use of ransomware, which blocks employees from using IT systems until the business pays a hacker, affected an estimated 6% of businesses, resulting in losses of $381 million. 

Building a strong cybersecurity can be an expensive affair. Organizations need to retain security executives such as CISOs and consultants to help them through the compliance audit. They may even be required to pay even more in legal costs and damages should there be any incidents that result in data breaches.

Here are some areas that companies spend their money on:

  • Cybersecurity techniques and expertise
  • Insurance costs
  • Public relations assistance

All of these factors contribute to the increase in expenses that a company puts in to avoid a cyberattack. 

2. Operational Disruption

Companies frequently incur indirect costs from cyberattacks in addition to direct financial losses, such as prolonged interruption in business operations. Cybercriminals can impact regular operations in a variety of ways, such as by infecting computer systems with malware that deletes valuable data or by placing malicious code on a server that prevents users from accessing the website.

3. Reputational harm

After a 2013 data breach involving the credit card information of more than 40 million consumers, retail behemoth Target (TGT) experienced a severe hit to its reputation. The security lapse cost it $18.5 million to resolve. Although difficult to fully measure, businesses that are the target of more serious cyberattacks will experience a significant decline in their brand equity. Customers and even suppliers could feel less confident entrusting a business whose IT infrastructure has breached even once with their private information.

4. Intellectual property theft

Nearly 30% of American businesses claim that within the last ten years, a Chinese rival has stolen their intellectual property. Products, technology, and go-to-market plans are frequently among a company’s most valuable assets. A large portion of this intellectual property is kept in the cloud, which makes it susceptible to hacker attacks. 

5. Non-compliance repercussions

Cyberattacks can bring to light regulatory violations or malpractices within the system. This can have a significant impact, especially in certain industries that require organizations to protect sensitive data in a structured manner. The fines and penalties can be bank-breaking and the tarnished reputation can slow the sales cycle.

If you are in a regulated industry, you must ensure continuous compliance checks to ensure continuous compliance and stay wary of incidents. Tools like Sprinto can help you run granular level checks and send you automated alerts when deviations occur to enable proactive response and minimize the chances of an attack. See Sprinto in action to know more.


15 most common types of cybersecurity attacks

Cyberattacks come in a wide variety and are commonplace today. Knowing the different forms of cyberattacks makes it simpler for you to defend your systems and networks against them. 

Here, we’ll take a look at the top 15 types of cyber attacks that, depending on their size, can either harm an individual or a major corporation.

1. Malware attack

Malware attack

Malware attacks are one of the most common types of online attacks. The term “malware” describes malicious software viruses such as:

  • Worms: A malicious software that can replicate itself and infect multiple devices. A worm can change or delete files, overload systems, consume bandwidth, and make the system unavailable. 
  • Spyware: A type of malware that infiltrates a user’s computer, collects data from the device and the user, and distributes it to third parties without their knowledge.
  • Adware: An adware delivers targeted advertisements to the infected computers while collecting and delivering confidential user information.
  • Trojans: A trojan is malware that disguises itself as a seemingly harmless software with extensions such as .exe, .mp4, etc. However, after execution, it can modify, delete, spy, or do other malicious activities.

Malware is typically spread via fraudulent websites, emails, and software. Malware can also be hidden in other files, such as picture or document files, or in the most common file types, such as.exe files. When users click on a link in fraud and malicious email or download and install software from an untrustworthy source, they may unknowingly install malware. 

The easiest way to avoid a malware attack is by being alert, avoiding untrustworthy links, USB drives, or sources.

2. Man-in-the-Middle attack

Man-in-the-Middle attack

A Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack happens when the attacker hijacks the session between a client and host by interfering with two-party communication. The objective of this attack is to steal users’ personal information, such as login credentials, credit card details, and bank account information. It can also be used to spy on a company’s intellectual properties. An MITM attack is carried out using different techniques, such as IP spoofing, ARP spoofing, and SSL hijacking. 

The best way to avoid an MITM attack is to use a personal and secure internet connection. Also, paying attention to website certificates on your browser is a great way to keep yourself secure.

3. SQL injection 

SQL injection 

SQL injection (SQLi) is a web security flaw that allows an attacker to tamper with database queries made by an application. Injection attacks generally enable an attacker to examine data that they would not otherwise be able to retrieve. This could include data belonging to other users or any other data that the program has access to. An attacker can often modify or destroy this data, resulting in lasting changes to the application’s content or behavior. SQL injection works by executing a structured query that triggers the desired response. The attacker uses the response to understand the database architecture and gain access to the application’s data.

The way to avoid an SQL injection is by using techniques such as preparing statements with variable binding, allowing list input validation, and escaping user input before putting it in a query.

4. Zero-day exploits

Zero-day exploits are attacks that take advantage of a vulnerability that is unknown to the developer. It is possible in cases where the software has just been launched and not yet patched. The developer or software vendor has zero-days to fix the vulnerability that an attacker with unauthorized access can exploit.

To minimize zero-day attacks, regularly update the software, install antivirus and firewalls to detect and block suspicious activities, implement the principle of least privilege, and monitor your traffic continuously.

5. DNS Tunnelling

DNS Tunnelling is a technique to hide data from other protocols within DNS queries so as to bypass security mechanisms. Firewalls and other network security tools may not detect tunneling or hijacking because the unauthorized data is transmitted through DNS queries, which are largely allowed through these mechanisms. The technique is highly dangerous as it can exfiltrate data from networks using an external server controlled by attackers.

To avoid DNS tunneling attacks, you can use measures such as monitoring and logging of DNS traffic, access controls, network segmentation, firewall rules and use of secure protocols such as HTTPS for transmitting sensitive data.

6. Password attack

Password attack

Password attacks involve exploiting a compromised authorization vulnerability in the system, together with automated password attack tools that speed up password guessing and cracking. There are many types of password attacks, the three most prominent ones being:

  • Dictionary password attacks: This technique employs a predefined list of words that a certain target network is most likely to use. The list is created by looking at user behavior patterns and passwords that have previously been stolen in data breaches. 
  • Keylogging: In this type of attack, a hacker uses monitoring software installed on the user’s computer to discreetly record the keys the user hits. All data that users submit into input forms is collected by a keylogger and sent to a malicious third party.
  • Spraying attack: In this method, the hacker attempts to log in using the same password on several different accounts, after which they reset the password. This method has seen success since most website visitors use simple passwords, Moreover,  they avoid violating lockout restrictions because they uses multiple accounts.

Thanks to the immense progress in security technologies, password attacks can be avoided by using techniques such as multi-factor authentication, biometrics, and using strong passwords. 

7. XSS 

XSS or cross-site scripting is an attack where the attacker injects malicious code into web applications or websites viewed by unsuspecting users. Once the code is injected into the victim’s browser, it is used by the attacker to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. This can include stealing cookies, modifying the website’s content or appearance, conducting phishing attacks, etc.

To minimize XSS attacks, you can validate or sanitize user inputs, ensure cookies are only sent through HTTPS secure connections and conduct regular audits to assess web applications risks and potential vulnerabilities.

8. Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse is a malware disguised as legitimate software or program that aims to enter the network and cause damage to the infected system. The malware can spy on users, steal data, modify or delete it or set up access points to the network also known as creating backdoors for attackers.

To minimize trojan horse attacks, install and regularly update antivirus, regularly back up data and use monitoring and logging tools.

9. Phishing attack

Phishing attack

Gary is a busy employee in the marketing team. He spends most of his days in meetings and has a habit of checking his mail on his phone while distracted. On one occasion, he opens his email and sees a mail from his COO asking him to click on a link to transfer a small amount of money on the promise of repayment. He clicks on the link without giving a second thought. Little did he know that the link he just clicked on resulted in him giving a malicious actor access to the company’s credentials that were also registered to his official phone. 

This is typically what a phishing attack looks like.

Phishing is the practice of delivering false communications that appear to be from a valid and trustworthy source, typically by email and text messaging. The attacker aims to steal money, obtain sensitive data and login information, or implant malware on the victim’s device. Phishing is a risky and damaging sort of cyberattack that is becoming more widespread.

Just like any malware, phishing can be avoided by keeping a close eye on online activity and only interacting with authentic sources.

10. Brute force attack

Brute force attack

In this type of attack,  the attacker attempts to guess the login credentials of someone accessing the target system. While this may appear to be time-consuming and complex, attackers frequently employ bots to crack passwords. The attacker gives the bot a list of password credentials that typically makes a few hundred guesses every second and can access them if the password is not very strong. 

Brute force attacks can be avoided by implementing lock-out policies as part of the security architecture. This way, a user is locked out after a specific number of attempts. 

11. Internal Threat

Internal Threat

An insider threat is a cyber security danger that originates within a company. It usually happens when a current or former employee, contractor, vendor, or partner gains unauthorized access to the organization’s networks, systems, and data. Small organizations are particularly vulnerable to insider threats because their employees frequently have access to sensitive data. There are several causes for this kind of attack, including monetary greed, insiders, and even negligence. Insider threats are tricky because they are difficult to predict.

One way to avoid this type of attack is by running a thorough background check on the employees and revoking access controls once they are offboarded.

12. Denial-of-Service Attack

Denial-of-Service Attack

A Denial-of-Service Attack poses a serious risk to businesses. Attackers target systems, servers, or networks, in this case and bombard them with traffic to deplete their bandwidth and resources. When this occurs, the servers get overwhelmed with incoming service requests, which causes the website it hosts to either go down or slow down. Valid service requests go unattended as a result. When attackers employ numerous hacked systems to initiate this attack, it is sometimes referred to as a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack. 

To avoid this type of attack, you can implement techniques such as network segmentation, load balancing, IP blocking, rate limiting, and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

13. Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is a phrase that has a lot to do with cryptocurrencies. When hackers get access to another person’s computer to mine cryptocurrencies, this is known as cryptojacking. Threat actors achieve access by infecting a website or tricking the victim into clicking on a malicious link. For this, they also use JavaScript-coded internet advertisements. Since the crypto mining code operates in the background, the only indication that a victim might see, is a delay in execution. 

Avoiding cyptojacking involves the same measures as avoiding malware, which are keeping your softwares updated, checking links for authenticity, and avoiding suspicious softwares and websites.

14. Ransomware attack

Ransomware attack

Ransomware is a type of software that prevents a user or organization from accessing files on their computer until they pay a ransom. Malicious actors encrypt files and demand a ransom payment for the decryption key. As organizations increasingly work remotely, weaknesses in their cyber defenses can cause cybercriminals to exploit these vulnerabilities. 

One can avoid ransomware by only interacting with authentic and trustworthy links and software on the internet and use a secured connection. 

15. DNS spoofing

DNS spoofing

DNS (Domain Name Service) spoofing is the process of compromising DNS server entries in order to redirect a targeted user to a malicious website controlled by the attacker. 

A home or business network could be vulnerable to this attack, but these areas are frequently monitored for malicious activity. The DNS attack is most commonly seen in public Wi-Fi networks, but it can occur in any situation where the attacker can compromise ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) tables and force targeted user devices to use the attacker-controlled machine as the server for a certain website. 

To avoid DNS spoofing, ensure that you’re on a secured AES network type such WPA2 or WPA3 Personal, check for website certificates, and avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi.

Safeguard your systems from cyber attacks with Sprinto

Cyber security attack examples

The world has seen hundreds and thousands of cyberattacks in the past decades, which resulted in data theft, heavy fines for companies, and reputational and operational harm.

Here are a few examples of cyberattacks that came to the limelight in the previous decade. 

Equifax cyberattack

Equifax, an American credit company, acknowledged (six weeks later) that it had been the victim of a cyberattack over a period of months. It was discovered in July 2017 and contains the personal information (names, birth dates, social insurance numbers, and driver’s licence numbers) of 143 million American, Canadian, and British consumers, as well as 200,000 credit card details.

Complaints were lodged against the corporation, as well as allegations of insider trading, because the vulnerability of the Apache Struts utilized by the hackers was publicly known, and numerous company leaders sold stock just days before the security breach was made public.

Target cyberattack

Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, was the target of a large-scale cyberattack in December 2013. Between November 27 and December 15, data from 110 million customers was stolen, including 40 million customers’ banking information and 70 million customers’ personal information (names, postal addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses). 

RAM scraping was the technique used in this attack. After stealing the data, the attackers resold it on the black market. Target was eventually forced to pay more than $18 million as a settlement for governmental investigations into the attack.

Adobe cyberattack

Adobe stated in October 2013 that its IT infrastructure had been hacked. Personal information from 2.9 million accounts (logins, passwords, names, credit card numbers, and expiration dates) was taken. To gain access to this information, the hackers exploited a security weakness at the publisher, specifically relating to password security practices.

Tips to avoid cybersecurity attacks

It is evident that protecting data is not as straightforward as organizations think it is. There are a number of activities that can help steer clear of such attacks.

Here are the basic measures you can take to mitigate the risk of a cybersecurity attack:

Back up data

Depending on your company’s activity level, you should set up an automated backup of company data once a day or once a week. Backing up your company’s data increases the possibility that your company’s data will not be fully lost in the event of a cyberattack. 

Protect your network

Set up firewalls and encrypt data to protect your networks. This reduces the possibility of cyber thieves having access to sensitive information. Ensure that your Wi-Fi network is concealed and password protected. Make sure that the information contained in the company databases is selective. 

Educate your workforce

Inform your staff of their responsibilities for securing and protecting the information of their coworkers, customers, and the company. Establish policies so that they understand what practices are acceptable and which are inappropriate. 

Control access

Restrict the number of users with administrative access within the organization. This will limit the number of programs they can download, lowering the chance of downloading viruses and malicious malware.

Develop a cybersecurity risk management policy

Developing a cybersecurity risk management policy is a crucial step that a company takes to ensure it can avoid cyberattacks. It details the process of detecting potential cybersecurity threats to an organization and prioritizing and preparing defenses to mitigate such threats. 

Minimize cyber attacks with Sprinto

Every end-point device, user, program, and application in today’s complex digital ecosystem is vulnerable to cyberattacks, and no company can afford to ignore this fact. The volume and complexity of data, the most recent attack trends, and skill gap in handling such incidents directly point to the need for automated solutions.

Sprinto is a compliance automation solution that helps you avoid cyberattacks by getting you compliant with the highest infosec standards and frameworks. With Sprinto you can:

  • Check the live status of your compliance health on the dashboard with a real-time view of controls
security controls dashboard
  • Keep track of vulnerabilities till closure
cyber vulnerabilities scanning
  • Leverage built-in incident management system or integrate your own incident management solution and centralize management
  • Arrange for workforce training with ready-to-use training templates to minimize cyber attacks
cybersecurity training
mitigate security risk
  • Stay continuously compliant and ensure data protection while also getting audit-ready across 20+ frameworks.

Want to improve your cybersecurity posture and avoid cybersecurity attacks? Speak with our experts today.

FAQ’s

Should businesses pay a ransom in the event of a ransomware attack?

Paying ransoms is generally discouraged by experts since there is no guarantee that attackers will decrypt data. Paying can also inspire other attacks and fuel criminal activity.

How can businesses detect an ongoing cyberattack?

Companies can identify cyberattacks using intrusion detection systems, network traffic monitoring for anomalies, system log analysis, and advanced threat detection technologies.

How can businesses ensure that third-party providers do not jeopardize their cybersecurity?

Companies should perform extensive security evaluations on contractors, ensuring that they fulfill cybersecurity standards and establishing clear contractual duties for data protection.

Shivam Jha

Shivam Jha

Shivam is our in house cybersecurity sage with over six years of experience in cybersecurity under his belt. He is passionate about making the digital world safer for everyone and whipping up Indian delicacies on the weekend.

Here’s what to read next….

Sprinto: Your growth superpower

Use Sprinto to centralize security compliance management – so nothing
gets in the way of your moving up and winning big.