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What are Cyber Attacks? Types of Attacks Explained

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16th Sep, 2022
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What are Cyber Attacks? Types of Attacks Explained

Survey reports show that cyber security threats continue to increase with each passing day in business organizations and other commercial spaces. Because of such attacks, the organizations face substantial financial losses too. The only way to combat this problem successfully is to have adequate subject knowledge and the right cybersecurity information. Business organizations are implementing various measures and procedures to provide adequate data protection and prevent cyber threats. 

Read this article to know in detail about cyber attacks and the different kinds of cyber security threats that are looming large. 

What are cyberattacks?

The ideal definition of a cyber attack is an attempt of disabling computer systems, data-stealing, or using a breached computer system for launching additional attacks. Needless to say, these attacks are highly unwelcome as the computer systems get unauthorized access through which confidential and sensitive information gets stolen, altered, disabled, exposed, and even destroyed. These deliberate malicious cyberattacks can be caused by an individual or by any organization. Generally, such attacks are done for some kind of monetary benefit. 

The biggest concern for cyberattacks is that these can be initiated from any place – geographical locations are no bar for such cybersecurity threats. Different kinds of attack strategies are deployed for the mission to be successful. 

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You must have heard the term cybercriminals. Yes, they are the people who are responsible for launching these cyberattacks. They are also known by other names like bad actors, hackers, or threat actors. Whether working alone or as an organized criminal group, cybercriminals are experts in identifying vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks and exploiting them for their gain. 

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What are the different kinds of cyberattacks?

It is pretty evident that in the present scenario of the connected digital landscape, sophisticated tools are used by cybercriminals for launching cyberattacks in various organizations and enterprises. The attack targets are inclusive of IT systems, computers networks, IT infrastructure, etc. 

Mentioned below are some of the most common and different kinds of cyber attacks:

  • Malware

It is evident from the name that malware is malicious software that makes infected systems unable to operate. The majority of malware variants are seen to destroy data and information by wiping away or deleting files which are crucial for running the operating system on the computer. Malware software includes ransomware, viruses, spyware, and other kinds of worms too. Vulnerable areas of the system are breached through malware. Generally, such software enters a system and gets installed when a user clicks on some fishy email attachment or on some link.  

  • Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Popularly known as eavesdropping attacks in hacking parlance, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks are those where the attackers put themselves in a two-party transaction. The main aim of the attackers is to interrupt the traffic, and as soon as that is done, they can filter data and steal them. There are mainly two entry points for such cyber security threats. They are:

  • Once a device is breached with malware, software is installed by the attacker for processing all information about the victim. 
  • If there is an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, attackers can push themselves between the network and the visitor’s device. Whatever information the visitor passes, it goes through the attacker.  

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  • Phishing and social engineering attacks

When a fraudulent attacker gains some sensitive information from any target and sends a message which seems to come from a legitimate and trusted source, it is known as phishing. The communication mainly takes place through email. The attacker’s main goal is to collect or steal sensitive data and information like login information or credit card credentials. The attacker might also intend to install malware on the victim’s system. Phishing is becoming one of the largest looming cyber security threats today. 

You will be surprised to know that almost 90% of cyber attacks have social engineering as the primary vector. This is because this technique depends heavily on human interaction. In such an attack, a trusted entity or personality is impersonated, leading to tricking individuals so that they furnish sensitive information to the attacker for transferring funds, etc., or provide access to system networks or systems in general. 

  • Ransomware

As per cyber security information from various trusted sources, ransomware is malware that uses encryption for denying access to resources, like users’ files. Basically, the target is compelling the victim to pay a ransom for getting back the access. If a system is attacked with ransomware, the files get irreversibly encrypted. There are two ways to get out of this situation. The victim can pay the ransom and unlock the encrypted resources, or he can later use backups for restoring the locked information. Many cybercriminals use extortion techniques with the threat of exposing confidential data if the ransom is not provided. 

  • SQL Injection

In a Structured Query Language (SQL) injection, the attacker inserts some malicious code into a server using SQL. The server reveals all kinds of information with the code, which it would not normally. Carrying out a SQL injection is nothing complicated for the hacker. The attacker just submits a malicious code into the vulnerable website’s search box. 

  • DNS Tunneling

In DNS tunneling, DNS protocol is utilized for communicating non-DNS traffic over port 53. HTTP and other protocol traffic are sent over DNS. There are many valid reasons for using DNS tunneling. However, attackers use malicious reasons for using DNS tunneling VPN services. They use it to disguise outbound traffic as DNS and conceal any kind of data typically shared through an internet connection. When used maliciously, manipulation is done in DNS requests for exfiltrating data from a compromised system to the attacker’s infrastructure. 

  • DoS and DDoS attacks

In denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, the target system is completely jeopardized so that it cannot respond to any legitimate and valid requests. The concept remains the same in distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, but many host machines are involved. The target site overflows with illegitimate service requests. However, the compromised system denies any kind of service to legitimate users. 

In these cyberattacks, the attacker does not have any access to the target system or does not get any benefit directly. This attack is mainly devised for sabotage. Sometimes such attacks are just a diversion for distracting security teams while attackers plan their next move. 

For small-scale DoS attacks, network security solutions and firewalls offer decent protection. However, cloud-based DDoS protection is needed by organizations for protection against large DDoS attacks. 

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack

In XSS attacks, malicious code is inserted in a legitimate application script or website for getting complete user information. Generally, third-party web resources are used for this purpose. For XSS attacks, JavaScript is most frequently used. Along with this, Adobe Flash, Microsoft VBScript, and ActiveX are also used. 

  • Backdoor Trojan

One of the most dangerous cyber security threats, Backdoor Trojan, creates some kind of backdoor vulnerability in the victim’s system. As a result, the attacker almost total control remotely. With this attack, attackers can link up an entire group of victims’ systems into a zombie network or botnet. Other serious cybercrimes can also be committed with this attack.


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To prevent cyberattacks or remain safe from cyber security threats, it is essential to have the right cyber security information. Once the different kinds of attacks are learned, it is possible to find ways of combating them successfully. Also, methods and processes should be implemented duly so that such attacks can be prevented in the first place. Organizations lose millions of dollars annually due to such malicious attacks and the loss of confidential and crucial data and information. 

Learning cyber security with upGrad

If you intend to make your career in cybersecurity and aim to stop cyber attacks and cyber security threats, enrol for upGrad’s Advanced Certificate Program in Cyber Security. On completing the program, you will be a cybersecurity expert with proficiency in network security, application security, cryptography, and data secrecy.

On completion of the Advanced Certificate Program in Cyber Security, you might grab jobs in any of these profiles:

  •         Cyber Security Analyst
  •         Cyber Security Engineer
  •         Application Security Engineer


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is the difference between cyberattacks and cybersecurity threats?

The terms cyber attacks and cyber security threats are more or less interrelated. A cyberattack is an offensive action where networked computers and their related resources are compromised with data theft, destruction of data, and many such uneventful things. On the other hand, a cybersecurity threat is a possibility of a cyberattack, which might take place. The threat can be used to assess the risk if the attack occurs.

2What is ransomware?

Ransomware is one among the common cyberattack styles, where the attacker compels the victim to pay a ransom for getting access to his computer system, network, and files. Common ransomware attacks include lock-screen ransomware, scareware, encryption ransomware, etc.

3What are some common kinds of cyber attacks?

MitM (man-in-the-middle) attacks Phishing Malware Ransomware DoS and DDoS SQL injection

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