Cyber attacks have become a menace in the digital world today. It has rightly become a great concern to every internet user, especially with the evolution and trends in digital transformation. Cyber attacks can occur on an individual, an organization, an app or a website. To combat this danger to websites and apps, you should be aware of the different types of common cyber attacks. In addition, you should be equipped with knowledge on how to combat these attacks.
This article exposes the common types of cyber attacks on the prowl as well as how you can protect yourself from them. To defend yourself against this jeopardy, however, a deep understanding of cyber attacks is necessary.
What Are Cyber Attacks?
A cyber attack can be said to have occurred when a third party has unauthorized access to a network, system or device. This attack is carried out by a hacker. There are numerous effects of a cyber attack. It can lead to loss of data, data breaches and manipulation. The downline consequences include financial losses, damage to reputation and destruction of customer trust.
This is where cybersecurity becomes essential. With proper cybersecurity, you can secure your computer systems, networks and even the cloud from prohibited digital access. The first step in cybersecurity is knowledge of the common cyber attacks so that you can protect yourself from them.
8 Common Cyber Attacks and How You Can Protect Yourself From Them
1. Phishing attack
This is one of the most widespread forms of cyber attacks. In this type of attack, a hacker pretends to be a contact the victim trusts, like a friend or associate, and sends phony emails to the victim. Innocently, the victim opens the email and the attacker or hacker accesses the victim’s account details and other confidential information. This attack can be used to cause reputational damage, commit financial fraud and other crimes.
Phishing attacks can also happen on suspicious websites. These sites are set up to farm emails and other information from unsuspecting visitors. Unknowingly, people give their information and it is used to attack their systems and emails, among others.
To protect yourself from phishing attacks, consider doing the following:
- Run every email you receive under strict scrutiny. Phishing email addresses usually have errors like spelling flaws and format distortions. They look like a familiar email address but with a slight alteration. At a glance, you may think it’s a familiar email address but on further examination, you would be able to detect the error.
- Change your password from time to time. Frequent updates of your password can prevent a phishing attacker from gaining access to your account.
- Consider using an anti-phishing toolbar. This tool is usually available as a browser plugin or add-on. It provides you information on any website you’re browsing so that you can know suspicious websites at a glance.
2. Maleware Attack
Here is another very common cyber attack. Malware is simply a shortened combination of two words: Malicious Software. It refers to malicious software viruses like trojans, spyware, worms, adware and ransomware.
Spyware is software that robs you of your confidential information. A trojan camouflages as legitimate software. Ransomware stops you from accessing the key elements of your system. Adware blocks your screen with unwanted advertisements. A worm replicates itself from computer to computer.
You can get a malware attack through phishing and spam emails, USB flash drives, fake apps, fraudulent websites, peer-to-peer sharing and torrents and compromised software.
To prevent malware attacks, try these tested tips:
- Get good antivirus software.
- Do not click on suspicious links.
- Make use of firewalls. Firewalls help filter the traffic that comes into a device. There are default built-in firewalls in Mac and Windows.
- Ensure your operating system and browsers are regularly updated.
3. SQL injection attack
An SQL also known as a Structured Query Language injection attack happens in a situation whereby a hacker tampers with a standard SQL query on a website that is data-driven. According to this article on SQL injection prevention, the hacker injects a code that is malicious into the search box of an exposed website prompting the server to divulge confidential data.
To protect your website from an SQL injection attack, consider the following preventions:
- Get an intrusion detection system.
- Execute a user-supplied data validation. This checks the user input.
4. Man in the middle (MITM) attack
This attack refers to one in which a hacker or attacker positions themselves to eavesdrop on conversations between a client and a host or a user and an application. The attacker hijacks the conversation and makes it look like it’s the normal exchange that is occurring. An unsuspecting user, therefore, goes on to divulge confidential information to the intruder without knowing.
To protect yourself from MITM attacks, endeavor to take the following precautions:
- Don’t use WIFIs that are not password protected. If possible, avoid public or random WIFIs altogether.
- When you’re not using a secure application, ensure you log out of the application completely.
- Take note of any browser notification reporting suspicious websites.
- Be conscious of every website you go to.
- Consider using encryption on your devices. Encryption enables you to scramble data such that only parties that are authorized can understand the data.
5. Password attack
A password attack simply involves a hacker cracking your password. This attack comes in different forms, namely, dictionary attacks, brute force attacks and keylogger attacks. This attack can be carried out with password cracking tools and programs like Abel, Cane, Hashcat, John the Ripper and many others.
To guard yourself against being password attacked, try these safety measures:
- Keep your password hints private and safe.
- Use special characters to make your passwords stronger.
- Try not to use one password for many websites.
- Change your passwords as many times as you can.
Another popular cyber attack you need to be aware of and protect yourself against is cryptojacking. This type of attack is quite recent but it is very dangerous and common. Cryptojacking refers to a situation where attackers hijack the computer someone uses to mine cryptocurrency.
The hacker gains access to the victim’s computer through an infected website or by baiting the victim to click on a link that is malicious. Online ads can also be used for this attack. Unsuspecting victims keep mining, not knowing that fraudulent activities are taking place simultaneously.
To ensure you don’t fall victim to cryptojacking, take the precautions below:
- Have an ad blocker installed on your system. This will block all unwanted ads from popping up.
- Make sure all your software and security apps are updated.
- If you run a cryptocurrency firm, make it a duty to train all your staff on how to identify cryptocurrency threats.
7. Insider threat attack
Threats from insiders in an organization is a common and serious kind of cyber attack. This attack is usually carried out by someone who has sensitive inside information about the organization. This insider threat is more dangerous because of the easy access the attacker has to confidential data.
This threat is more common in small businesses and startups where an individual has unchecked access to several important information about the business. Insider threat attacks could occur as a result of a disgruntled or greedy member of staff or an outsider using the insider to perpetrate the attack.
To protect your organization or business against insider threat attacks, do the following:
- Train your staff to identify insider threat attacks.
- Limit and monitor the access of IT staff to confidential data.
8. XSS attack
An XSS attack is also known as cross-site scripting. During this attack, the hacker, through clickable content sent to the target’s browser, transmits scripts that are malicious. The hacker alters the script that is being executed and the user carries out actions they are not aware of. The unsuspecting user sees the process as a legitimate one, not knowing that fraudulent activities are being carried out.
For example, in an XSS attack on a financial transaction, the hacker might falsify a transfer request and replace the recipient’s name with theirs. The sender would be assured of a successful transaction but the recipient would not receive the payment. The amount being transferred can also be altered.
The preventive measures against an XSS attack include the following:
- Use a whitelist of allowable entities. This will ensure that only approved entries will be accepted by the web application.
- Use a technique called ‘Sanitizing’. This ensures that all data entries are well-examined and checks that they don’t contain any suspicious or harmful elements.
Cyber attacks have caused and are causing significant anxiety in the digital space. The consequences of cyber attacks include substantial financial loss, loss of personal data, intellectual property and physiological harm. Therefore, being aware of common cyber attacks and how to prevent them is a protective measure.
In this article, you have learned what cyber attacks are, the most common ones as well as how to protect yourself from each. Popular cyber attacks include phishing attacks, malware attacks, SQL injection attacks, Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks, password attacks, cryptojacking, insider threat attacks and XSS attacks.
Moyofade Ipadeola is a Content Strategist, UX Writer and Editor. Witty, she loves personal development and helping people grow. Mo, as she’s fondly called, is fascinated by all things tech.