A cyber attack is composed of three basic elements, which are the ‘means of access,’ the ‘vulnerability,’ and the ‘proposed exploitation’ explains William D King.
The above-mentioned components are defined as follows.
- By definition, and IT system that uses digital technologies to secure information, records, or transactions through electronic computations within a computer system is called an information system (IS).
- An IS consists of three main components; one or more Data input devices, one or more processors, and output devices.
The two main types of cyber attacks are malware-based and vulnerability-based ones.
- A malware-based attack entails the execution of a malicious program for the purpose of disrupting services to legitimate users while gathering sensitive data in order to gain unauthorized access or control over computer systems or networks. This software may be install through deception, surprise, assault on the network infrastructure built by the targets, and also social engineering, etc. Furthermore, software used for attacks can sometimes work automatically without human interventions by using vulnerabilities which exploit problems in certain programs installed on computers to the internet.
- Vulnerability-based attacks are based on exploiting vulnerabilities in the design, code, configuration or implementation of software from a particular system. These types of attacks can be achieve through various methods such as spoofing or social engineering techniques use by attackers to plant malicious code into a vulnerable network environment.
According to surveys conducted on U.S. companies’ security policies and practices, among the most prominent categories of cyber attacks were:
1) Computer viruses;
2) External reconnaissance;
3) Denial of service;
4) Internal reconnaissance;
5) External probes;
6) Unauthorized access;
7) Systems interference;
8) Data manipulation/corruption/deletion;
9) Theft of equipment or media containing information assets;
10) Theft of intellectual property (proprietary data and trade secrets, etc.);
11) Sabotage; and
12) Unauthorized use of legitimate access.
Cyber-attacks may also target the availability and integrity of information or damage it by manipulating or corrupting stored data. Such actions can result in a loss of value to individuals as well as entities such as government agencies, financial institutions, corporations, businesses, educational institutes, etc.
Although cyber attacks entail various types of vulnerabilities that can be exploit through various means such as human error, the most prominent vulnerability exploited by hackers is software weaknesses says William D King. Software errors on computing devices allow malicious code to spread on systems and networks without being detect thus enabling attackers to perform their evil deeds.
Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly complex due to the increased use of automation, which facilitates the use of massive amounts of data.
This is because these automated systems can self-replicate themselves making them more sophisticated and dangerous over time. However, this makes it easier for cyber criminals to carry out large scale cyber attacks using very powerful tools that work fast enough to dismantle the security mechanisms designed by organizations’ information technology departments.
The following are examples of software weaknesses exploited by attackers:
- Common Web Application Weaknesses;
- Mobile Device Attacks;
- Network Protocol Vulnerabilities;
- Web Service (SOAP) RCE Vulnerability;
- Denial of Service Attack Weaknesses; and Cracking Tools Weaknesses.
Information Security Threats:
IS threat is a combination of the attack vector used by attackers to launch online attacks against an organization. It can be classified as follows:
1). Malicious Code (Malware) –
These include viruses, worms and also Trojan horses says William D King. They are design with a specific purpose in mind which can vary from disrupting services to gathering sensitive data
2). Unauthorized Access –
This type of attack entails gaining unauthorized access to networks or systems without being detect beforehand
3). Denial of Service –
This category includes attacks that target information availability such as Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
4). Social Engineering –
Social engineering uses human interaction as a key element for an attack. Defenders have now started taking measures to protect their information systems against cyber attacks. These include installing security solutions to automatically identify and block known vulnerabilities, which are also in software applications running on the network. Moreover, Security analysts have identified malicious codes that take advantage of particular vulnerabilities exploited by attackers to penetrate into targeted networks explains William D King.
Malicious Code (Malware):
Malicious code refers to any code designed for harmful purposes such as gathering sensitive data or disrupting services without the knowledge of users connected to a network. This can range from viruses, worms, Trojan horses and also backdoor infections among others, which are designe with specific objectives depending on their reason of creation.
A study by SEC Consult (2013) found that nearly 20,000 vulnerabilities existed in widely used software applications this year. Also, Hackers take advantage of weak spots in these applications to carry out their evil deeds. It is therefore important to identify and address such weaknesses before attackers use them against you.