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Common Attack Vectors

In this digital era, where everything has become online, the risks of cyber attacks have also increased. With the advancement in technology, cybercriminals are constantly refining and updating their techniques and procedures. They find sophisticated ways to attack that are even difficult to detect. Organizations, businesses, and individuals alike are facing cyber threats, and their online safety is at risk.

You need to take steps to protect your online privacy, devices, identity, and sensitive information. It’s important to safeguard your internet-connected devices to protect yourself from cyber-attacks. For this purpose, you need to learn about the common vector of a cyber attack and how to mitigate them. In this article, you’ll get an overview of some of the most common vectors of attacks seen today.

But before proceeding further, let’s first understand what cyber attack is.

What is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is a deliberate attempt to target the computer information system, computer networks, infrastructure, and personal computer devices using multiple methods to steal and destroy data. It’s a way hackers use to gain unauthorized access to IT systems for theft, disruption, extortion, and other criminal reasons. Cybercriminals get advantages by disrupting the victim’s network. They use various ways to launch a cyberattack, including phishing, malware, ransomware, denial of service, drive-by downloads, and much more.

What is an attack vector?

An attack vector is a way to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or a network. Cybercriminals steal personal information and sensitive data of organizations and individuals by investigating the known attack vectors, and they attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in systems to gain access.

Once they gain access to a company’s IT infrastructure, they can put the malicious code in the system. It enables them to control the systems and steal data and other resources. So, an attack vector is a path that attackers use to exploit security vulnerabilities.

Common vectors of a cyber attack

Lets discuss some common vectors of cyber attacks…

  1. Phishing
  2. Zero-day vulnerabilities
  3. Drive-by-downloads
  4. Malware
  5. Shadowing of domain
  6. Denial-of-service
  7. Malvertising
  8. Ransomware
  9. Man-in-the-middle
  10. SQL injection

Let’s have a brief introduction about these vector attacks and learn the ways to mitigate them.

Phishing attack

Phishing is a kind of attack in which cybercriminals contact the targets by electronic communication, such as emails, text messages, or telephone, and act as legitimate organizations or institutions. This act lures people into providing their personal information such as credit card details, passwords, and personally identifiable information. It is one of the most effective and common social engineering attack vectors to manipulate the targets into performing actions like clicking on a malicious attachment or a link in the email.

To reduce the risk of phishing attacks, you can use these precautionary techniques.

  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Email filters can prevent email spoofing
  • Do not give sensitive information to an unauthorized site
  • Install firewalls to prevent external attacks
  • Use sandboxing to test email content

Zero-day vulnerabilities

A zero-day attack is one in which attackers find the weaknesses in a computer system that is undetected by the victims. It’s an attempt by cybercriminals to penetrate, compromise, and damage a system that is affected by unknown vulnerabilities. It’s a weakness in the IT infrastructure that no one is aware of until the attack occurs. Zero-day attacks are particularly harmful because the people who know about them are hackers themselves.

Here are some best practices to prevent zero-day attacks.

  • Use a proactive and advanced email security solution
  • Educate users about best security practices to protect from zero-day exploits.
  • Deploy a web application firewall. It will help organizations react to cyber threats in real-time.
  • Implement a network access control to prevent unauthorized systems from accessing the organizations’ networks.

Drive-by download attack

Drive-by downloads are one of the common vectors of cyber attack used by hackers to install malware on a system and gain unauthorized access to it. When a system gets infected by malicious software by visiting a website, it is called a drive-by download. Users do not need to stop or click on a malicious link or page, but they get attacked simply by visiting the page.

Here are several steps users can take to protect themselves from drive-by downloads.

  • Update your system regularly.
  • Do not use a privileged account for day-to-day work
  • Remove unnecessary applications, software, and plug-ins
  • Use a firewall to detect and block the known threats
  • Use web-filtering software that will protect users from visiting malicious sites.

Malware

Malware is a kind of application or software that can perform malicious tasks for gaining unauthorized access to the user’s system. Some malware are designed to get persistent access to a system or a network, some are designed to cause disruption, and some are designed to spy on victims to obtain valuable data. Several types of malware exist, such as spyware, worms, viruses, Trojans and adware, etc.

To prevent your systems from malware, here are the steps you can take.

  • Install anti-virus programs to protect against malware.
  • Regularly update your system and the software installed on it.
  • Buy applications and software from the trusted sources
  • Do not open suspicious links or download files from unauthorized sources.

Domain shadowing

Domain shadowing is a cybercriminal act to avoid the detection of malicious websites by hacking the administrator’s account. It steals account traffic from the consumer traffic flowing to a registered and trustworthy web domain. Hackers then register several unauthorized subdomains once they gain access. These subdomains are difficult to detect, and cybercriminals use these subdomains to perform malicious acts, including malware distribution, exploit kit injection, and redirection to malicious websites. The main technique against domain-shadowing is to ensure account security by two-factor authentication and strong passwords.

 

Denial-of-service attacks

A denial-of-service (DoS) attack is a technique to overload a network or a machine to make it unavailable for users. Hackers do this by sending more traffic than a network or machine can handle and cause it to fail. Network disruption due to huge traffic causes a denial of service for users of the victim source. A denial of service utilized the processing power of several malware-infected systems to target a simple system.

To protect against these kinds of attacks, you need a better plan and reliable DoS mitigation solutions.

  • Develop a denial-of-service response plan
  • Secure your IT infrastructure
  • Practice basic network security
  • Leverage the cloud
  • Maintain strong network architecture

Malvertising

Malvertising or malicious advertising is the use of online advertisements to spread malware on the target systems. Cybercriminals inject malicious ads into legal advertising networks that display advertisements on the trusted websites. Users can fall victim by clicking on a malicious ad or by visiting an infected website. These malware ads are designed to trap you into providing your personal information.

The following steps can help you mitigate the risk of malvertising.

  • Choose your ad networks carefully. Do not trust unauthorized networks.
  • Implement a content security policy
  • Maintain your local machines
  • Practice security and get awareness training

Ransomware

Ransomware is a kind of cyber attack that blocks access to victims’ data, and they do not access their data until they pay ransom money. Cybercriminals threaten the victims to publish or delete their data until a ransom is paid, and sometimes they do not give access back to the victim even if the ransom money is paid. Ransomware is usually distributed by email phishing, exploit kits, and malvertising.

You can minimize the impact of ransomware attacks by implementing the following techniques.

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest software.
  • Educate employees and raise cybersecurity awareness
  • Consider cloud technologies.
  • Always backup your data to external devices.

Man-in-the-middle attack

Man-in-the-middle is a common type of cyber attack that lets hackers spy on the communication between the victims. This attack takes place in between two legit communicating hosts that allow hackers to listen to the conversation. Therefore it is named “man-in-the-middle”. The hacker can be a passive listener in your communication, an active participant,  silently stealing your data and altering it.

Best cybersecurity practices can help protect you from man-in-the-middle attacks.

  • Connect to the secured Wi-Fi routers
  • use end-to-end encryption
  • Use a VPN to encrypt data between endpoints
  • Use password managers to protect your accounts’ passwords.
  • Use multi-factor authentication

SQL injection

SQL injection vulnerabilities allow cybercriminals to inject malicious code in SQL queries. It makes them able to retrieve and alter the data stored in a website’s database.  SQL injection vulnerability is the most dangerous issue for data integrity and confidentiality in web applications. A successful SQL injection attack can read sensitive data from the database and hack it.

Here are basic steps that you can follow to keep your web app safe.

  • Everyone involved in developing a web application must be aware of the risks associated with SQL injections.
  • Do not trust any user input
  • Use whitelists instead of blacklists
  • Use latest technologies for SQLi protection

If you want to secure your IT infrastructure, it’s necessary to understand the cause of attacks. In this article, we have reviewed some common cyber attacks that cybercriminals use to compromise and disrupt the information systems. Ways to mitigate these attacks may vary, but the basic security measures remain the same. Keep your systems up-to-date, configure network devices in line with best practices, use multi-factor authentications, implement penetration testing into your lifecycle, and ensure users know what is a strong password!