The Top Forms of Cyberattacks Explained


A cyberattack is an exploit that uses a vulnerability to steal or destroy data. It can cost businesses a lot of money.

Criminals use malware to silently spy on devices and gather sensitive information like passwords and financial records. They can also hold your business hostage with ransomware.


A cyberattack is any attempt to gain unauthorized access to computer systems or networked information to disrupt, destroy or steal data. There are different forms of cyberattacks you need to know. Attackers use many tactics and techniques to achieve this goal, including hacking, malware, phishing, swatting, DDoS attacks, and more.

Hackers can launch attacks for various reasons, from making money to hurting or embarrassing an organization they dislike. Some hackers, known as white hats, do it for the intellectual challenge or the thrill of breaching a system. Others do it to cause disruptions and sow chaos, confusion, and discontent in organizations. Nation-state attackers are also responsible for some cyberattacks.

A common tactic is placing malicious code in online ads that exploit vulnerabilities. When internet users click these ads, they download malware and infect their computers with spyware that gathers sensitive information like usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and more. Others use ping flooding to overload servers with Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo request (ping) packets and cause them to go offline. Other cyberattacks include man-in-the-middle attacks, a form of spyware that allows the attacker to relay communication between two parties and modify what they say.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack aims to intercept and manipulate communication between two parties who think they are communicating directly with each other. This is typically done through sniffing – using tools that inspect packets (data units sent over a network) to gather unencrypted information.

Cybercriminals can then steal or alter this information to gain access to account credentials, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data. They can even impersonate one of the parties to convince the other they are authentically interacting with them.

Generally, this attack is used as an initial gateway to long-term advanced persistent threat (APT) campaigns within a company. Attackers can leverage the information gained to mine company databases and disrupt production environments.

Attackers can carry out this attack using rogue network devices, such as unauthorized access points or switches. They can also spoof IP addresses and DNS records to redirect traffic to an attacker-controlled server. They can also use malware, such as Trojan horses or viruses, to intercept communication between victims.

Pass the Hash Attacks

Pass the Hash attacks (PtH) occur when hackers gain access to your systems by stealing hashed user credentials instead of the actual password. This allows attackers to trick the authentication mechanism on your network into creating a new authenticated session without knowing or cracking the password. This attack is hazardous for organizations that use Windows technology.

Hackers can steal password hashes by compromising a system or device using phishing, malware, or other social engineering tactics. They can move between devices and accounts later, gaining access to higher-level domain privileges and sensitive data.

To spot these attacks, cybersecurity teams must ingest and correlate to identify activities that don’t match normal logins, account usage, or approved behavior patterns. Tools make it possible to sift through and analyze the combinations of these events to pinpoint suspicious activity. Then, internal analysts can act appropriately to limit damage and protect assets.

Denial of Service Attacks

Denial-of-service attacks make a targeted system or network unavailable to its intended users. Attackers achieve this by flooding the target with traffic that overwhelms its capacity to serve users, slowing it down, or even stopping it altogether.

To accomplish this, attackers employ a variety of tactics and techniques. Volume-based attacks, or spoofed-packet floods, send overwhelming packets that exceed the capacity of servers and infrastructure management tools. These attacks can be measured in bits per second.

Protocol or network-layer DDoS attacks — such as SYN floods, Ping of Death, and ping smurf attacks — exploit flaws in the way older handle fragmented IP packets. These attacks consume actual server or network bandwidth, as well as the resources of intermediate communication equipment.

Layer 7 DDoS attacks (or application-layer attacks) use web server software to flood a target with POST, GET, and HTTP requests that are too large for the server to handle. This chokes out the target site and can cause it to crash.

DNS Tunneling

DNS tunneling is an attack that allows hackers to communicate with malware-infected systems. It has become popular in recent years because it is relatively simple to deploy, and the tools needed for this attack are readily available online.

To begin a DNS tunneling attack, a hacker registers a host domain and sets up a site with malware programs installed on it. Then, when a victim visits the site, the hacker’s server will send back responses encoded with data and commands. This encoding is designed to avoid detection by traffic monitoring software that typically looks for plaintext patterns.

The infected system’s malware will execute these commands and send the information back to the attacker. This information can be used to spoof an IP address, gain network footprint data or make additional malicious software attacks more effective.

Defenders can spot DNS tunneling by examining the types of character sets being sent back and forth or by looking at how much traffic is transmitted to the hacker’s server versus the average usage.