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What Really Happens During A Cyber Attack?

The world witnesses one cyber attack every 39 seconds (source). Yet, more than 95% of the cyberattacks are due to user error. This statistic shows that people do not understand how a cyber attack works. Cyber attacks launched by unethical hackers and malicious criminals attack mobiles, laptops, multiple computers, and entire networks. The objective is to disable computers and steal sensitive data. Some assailants take our computers and other resources to launch other attacks on other unwary businesses. Cybersecurity experts counter these criminals through tools and precautionary methods.

Types Of Cyberattack

Untargeted Cyber Attacks

Some indiscriminate cybercrooks launch large-scale attacks. They disable as many devices, users, and services as possible. In certain cases, they exploit any vulnerability or configuration error in a commonly used software to victimize a large number of machines. These attackers know all about the various online loopholes and vulnerabilities.

  • Phishing experts send out innumerable emails soliciting bank details. They also encourage victims to visit fake websites.
  • Some fraudsters set up fake websites to earn a quick buck, and others even hack into legitimate business sites to exploit the customers.
  • Ransomware attacks disable or take over devices. The key for decryption comes for a ransom payment. However, in most cases, the attack refuses to give complete control and request for more ransom.
  • Scanning tactics include listening to address ports and services. The criminal discovers loopholes to later launch a targeted attack.

Targeted Assaults

These are tailor-made attacks that target specific systems of a business network. The perpetrator can be a disgruntled employee, former partner, mercenary, or a criminal. These assaults cause more damage as they target specific processes, systems, and personnel.

  • Spear Phishing, malware attachments, and download links are the common traps.
  • Botnet devices are helpful to orchestrate a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Specific servers, networks, and services get targeted to disturb or overwhelm the normal traffic. Around 43% of the attackers focus on small businesses only (source).
  • Supply chain attacks focus on vulnerabilities like sensitive data, products, and software. Rootkits and hardware spies disrupt government or large business operations.

Various Stages Of Attack

Cybercriminals use sophisticated software like web shells, stealers, frameworks, trojans, and obfuscators. Their objective is to infect systems, steal data, collect ransom, and disrupt activities. In some cases, the attacker does not steal it but encrypts it, thus rendering it useless for the owner without the key. If the ransom goes unpaid, they either delete the data or share it in the dark web, ruining the reputation of the company. But achieving these goals requires persistence and snooping abilities. Dedicated fraudsters probe and exploit weaknesses in multiple stages. Cybersecurity experts dig deeper into four main stages to prevent, detect, and resolve these criminal activities.

1. Survey: Information collected and analyzed to identify the target’s vulnerabilities.
2. Delivery: Identifying the point in the system to exploit the known weakness.
3. Breach: Security breach through unauthorized access to gain control.
4. Affect: The pre-defined goal of either stealing or encrypting data.

Security specialists establish effective defense mechanisms to stop the attacks. Let us look at each stage to understand what happens during a cyberattack.

Survey Stage

Attackers collect procedural, physical, and technical information that reveals weaknesses. These details come from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. On the other hand, hackers also rely on domain name services and search engines. They use toolkits and scanning software to figure out an organization’s security systems and computers.

Company employees are also a good source of information for criminals. Naive users reveal sensitive details on tech forums. They also recklessly share documents with crucial details like author, file location, software version, etc. Some hackers befriend employees to elicit key information on vulnerabilities.

Delivery Stage

The attacker designs a solution or strategy to exploit the vulnerabilities. He uses malicious software to breach security. DDOS attacks make multiple connections to a computer. This plan effectively prevents authorized users from accessing the system. Some other delivery tactics include.

  • Hack into an online store or e-commerce site.
  • Distribute infected USB sticks at trade fairs.
  • Send malware code attachments through email.
  • Invite the victim to a fake website using email links.

Breach Stage

This stage is an early-stage violation that focuses on unauthorized access. The breach is achievable by using these exploitative methods:

  • Malware: A system’s operations get affected by making illegal, disruptive changes.
  • Stealth: Accessing restricted sites and online accounts by stealing passwords.
  • Backdoor: Hacking into parental and remote control mechanisms to take control.
  • Impersonation: Pretending to be a victim to gain access to a PC, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Insider Threats: Use or compromise an employee for unhindered access.
  • Physical Attack: Enter the office, sit before the system, and gain access.

Affect Stage

This stage is the final and dangerous one that leads to a persistent presence. The criminal consolidates by expanding his access and control. He gains administrator access and automatically scans the entire network. He also disables and enables system monitoring processes during this stage.

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