13 Most Dangerous Cyber Attacks And How To Avoid Them

Today’s cyber adversaries are not mere amateurs but professional criminals aiming to steal data.

As per the findings of Check Point Research, there was a record surge in weekly cyber attacks in Q4 2021, with over 900 attacks per organization.

RiskIQ estimated that cybercrime costs organizations $1.79 million every minute.

As cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated, one of the tools that remains effective in bolstering online security is a VPN.

VPNs, such as ExpressVPN, create an encrypted connection between a user’s device and the internet, safeguarding from potential interception.

This is especially vital when accessing sensitive information on unsecured public networks, which can be hotspots for man-in-the-middle attacks.

Let’s explore the 13 most damaging cyber attacks and the strategies to combat them.

1. Malware Attacks

Malware, an intrusive program or file, is designed to exploit devices for the attacker’s benefit. They employ evasion techniques to install themselves without anyone noticing. The most common types of malware include:

Rootkit:

  A rootkit opens a backdoor on a victim’s device, allowing the attacker to install additional malware or control other devices on the network.

Trojan:

  Trojan is hidden in an innocent-looking email attachment or free download. Once installed, it executes a malicious task or creates a backdoor for future attacks.

Spyware:

  Spyware monitors the victim’s internet activity, tracking login credentials and sensitive information.

How to Avoid Malware Attacks?

It’s essential to have up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software installed on all devices to counter malware threats. Regularly scan for and remove potential threats. Additionally, avoid downloading files or software from unknown sources and be cautious of email attachments and links, especially from unsolicited sources.

2. Password Attacks

Passwords are a standard authentication method, making them a prime target for attackers. Various methods to obtain a user’s password include brute-force attacks, dictionary attacks, social engineering, password sniffers, keyloggers, and stealing or buying a password database.

How To Avoid Password Attacks?

Strengthening password protocols is vital. Use strong, unique passwords for each account and leverage multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. Regularly change passwords and consider using password managers like LastPass to keep track of complex passwords.

3. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks exploit vulnerabilities on the device to encrypt important files, demanding a ransom for the decryption key. These attacks can target a server or try to install the ransomware on other devices in the network.

How To Avoid Ransomware Attacks?

Aside from robust antivirus solutions, regularly back up essential data in multiple locations, including offline. Educate yourself about the dangers of suspicious emails, as phishing is a common ransomware delivery method.

4. Distributed Denial-Of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

In a DDoS attack, multiple compromised systems attack a target, causing a denial of service for legitimate users. Flooding incoming messages or malformed packets forces the target system to slow down or even crash.

How To Avoid DDoS Attacks?

Start using network monitoring tools to detect unusual traffic patterns. Employ web application firewalls and consider DDoS mitigation services from providers like Cloudflare or Akamai.

5. Phishing Attacks

In a phishing attack, an attacker acts as a reputable entity to distribute malicious links or attachments, tricking the victim into handing over valuable information. Spear phishing attacks target specific individuals or companies while whaling attacks target senior executives.

How To Avoid Phishing Attacks?

Training and awareness programs can teach users to recognize phishing attempts. Also, use email filters to detect and block phishing emails, and regularly update software to fix vulnerabilities that phishing attempts might exploit.

6. SQL Injection Attacks

Database-driven websites are susceptible to SQL injection attacks. A malicious request can create, modify, or delete the data stored in the database and extract sensitive data.

How To Avoid SQL Injection Attacks?

Utilize parameterized queries and stored procedures when accessing databases. Regularly review and update web applications to patch any vulnerabilities.

7. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

XSS attacks occur when an untrusted source can inject its code into a web application. This allows an attacker to execute malicious scripts in another user’s browser.

How To Avoid XSS Attacks?

Always validate and sanitize user inputs to web applications. Utilize security headers and content security policies to restrict the execution of malicious content.

8. Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks

In a MiTM attack, attackers secretly intercept messages between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other. The attackers can manipulate messages before reaching the intended recipient.

How To Avoid MITM Attacks?

Always use encrypted connections like HTTPS. For internal communications, consider using a VPN. For personal browsing, always verify the SSL certificates of websites.

9. URL Interpretation/URL Poisoning

Hackers can modify a URL to try and access information or resources they shouldn’t have access to. If an attacker manages to access privileged resources through URL manipulation, it is called an insecure direct object reference.

How To Avoid URL Poisoning Attacks?

Ensure that web applications validate and sanitize all inputs. Implement proper access controls and utilize security mechanisms to restrict unauthorized access.

10. DNS Spoofing

Hackers overwrite stored IP addresses on DNS servers and resolvers with fake entries, so users are directed to a hacker-controlled website instead of the legitimate one.

How To Avoid DNS Spoofing Attacks?

Regularly update and patch DNS servers. Employ DNS security extensions (DNSSEC) to validate the authenticity of received DNS data.

11. Botnet Attacks

A botnet is a network of internet-connected devices that are infected and remotely controlled by cybercriminals. They are frequently used to send spam emails, participate in click fraud campaigns, and generate malicious traffic for DDoS attacks.

How To Avoid Botnet Attacks?

Install and update antivirus software that can detect and remove bot malware. Regularly monitor network traffic to identify patterns consistent with botnets.

12. Watering Hole Attacks

In a watering hole attack, an attacker embeds malicious code into a legitimate but insecure website. When anyone visits the site, the code automatically executes and infects their device.

How To Avoid Botnet Attacks?

Keep all software and browsers updated. Use network monitoring tools to detect unusual outbound traffic. Consider using threat intelligence services to stay updated on known compromised sites.

13. Insider Threats

Employees and contractors have legitimate access to an organization’s systems. This can be used to access restricted resources, make system configuration changes, or install malware.

How To Avoid Insider Threats?

Regular audits of system access and permissions can identify potential internal threats. Training programs can also educate employees about the importance of security and the risks associated with negligent or malicious behaviors.

Conclusion

The increasing number of connected people and devices makes networks valuable targets for cyber attacks. Security teams must understand how different types of cyber attacks work and implement mitigating controls and strategies to minimize damage. Security awareness training, defense-in-depth strategy, end-to-end encryption, proactive monitoring, and a well-rehearsed response plan are key considerations.

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