Types of Cyber Attacks: A Detailed View

Businesses all over the world face cyber attacks every day. According to John Chambers, the former CEO of CISCO, “There are two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those who don’t yet know they have been hacked.” The rate of cybercrime increases to a great extent each year as malicious actors try to benefit from vulnerable business systems.

What are Cyber Attacks?

Cyberattacks can be defined as assaults launched by cybercriminals using one or more computers against single or multiple networks or computers. It is done to steal data, maliciously disable computers, or use a breached computer as a launch point for other attacks. It is a deliberate attempt made by an organization or an individual to breach the information system of another organization or individual.

Types of Cyber Attacks?


Malware is a term used to describe malicious software such as viruses, worms, spyware, and ransomware. It breaches a network through a vulnerability, especially when a user clicks on a dangerous link or opens a harmful attachment that then installs risky software. The malware can do any of the following once it is inside the system.

  • Install malware or additional malicious software.
  • Block access to major components of the network.
  • Disrupt some components and render the system inoperable.
  • Covertly obtain information through data transmission from the hard drive.

2. Phishing and Spear Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the practice of sending emails that appear to be from trusted sources. This is done with the goal of influencing users to do something or gaining personal information. It makes use of technical trickery and social engineering. It can be a link to an illegitimate website that can trick you into handing over your personal information or downloading malware. It could also be an attachment to an email that, once clicked, loads malware onto your computer.

Spear phishing refers to a targeted type of phishing activity. Attackers take enough time to conduct research into targets and create messages that are relevant and personal. It is hard to identify spear phishing and even harder to defend against. Email spoofing is one of the simplest ways to conduct a spear phishing attack. In email spoofing, the information in the email’s ‘From’ section is falsified, thus making it appear as if it has sent by a known person or your partner company. Website cloning is another technique that hackers use. This involves copying legitimate websites to fool you into entering login credentials or other personal information.

3. Eavesdropping Attack

These occur through the interception of network traffic. By eavesdropping, an attacker can obtain credit card numbers, passwords, and other confidential information that a user might send over the network. The two types of eavesdropping are:

  • Passive Eavesdropping – In this, a hacker detects the information by listening to the messages transmitted in the network.
  • Active Eavesdropping – Here, a hacker actively grabs information by sending queries to transmitters and disguising himself as a friendly unit.

4. Cross-site Scripting (XSS) Attack

These use third party web resources to run scripts in the victim’s scriptable application or web browser. The attacker specifically injects a payload with malicious JavaScript into the database of a website. Here, the victim requests a page from the website and the website transmits the exact page along with the payload of the attacker as part of the HTML body, to the victim’s browser, that executes the malicious script. The most dangerous consequence occurs when cross-site scripting is used for exploiting additional vulnerabilities. These can enable an attacker to not only steal cookies, but also capture screenshots, log keystrokes, remotely access and control the victim’s machine, and discover and collect network information.

5. Birthday Attack

This is made against hash algorithms that are used to verify the integrity of messages, digital signature, or software. A message processed by a hash function will produce a message digest (MD) of fixed length. This refers to the probability of finding two random messages that generate the same MD while being processed by a hash function.


The surprising fact is that, despite the prevalence of cyber attacks, research suggests that there is 99 percent of enterprises that are not effectively protected. But are you aware that it is possible to prevent cyber attacks? The key to protecting yourself from cyberattacks is to have an end-to-end multilayered cybersecurity architecture that spans all networks, cloud, and endpoint and mobile devices. Some of the key measures one can take to prevent cyber attacks are maintaining security hygiene, choosing prevention over detection, implementing advanced technologies, and keeping your threat intelligence up to date.

To learn more about cybersecurity certifications and become a cybersecurity expert, check out Global Tech Council.