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What is a Cyber Attack? Common Attack Techniques and Targets

Richard Bailey
by Atlantic.Net (111 posts) under Dedicated Server Hosting
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A Cyber Attack is a common form of hacking. It is a term that describes malicious digital attacks launched by cybercriminals and targeted against small, medium, and large businesses, government institutions, and infrastructure assets such as utility services.

All cyber attacks are launched digitally, but the attack vectors vary significantly. Hackers have hundreds of methods to target their victims. Sometimes hacks are opportunistic, but often the target is chosen for specific reasons.

Hackers are usually after two things: data and financial reward. Data is a valuable commodity. For example, R&D secrets have significant value on the black market. However, data can also be used for extortion, bribery, and deformation.

This article will discover what a cyber attack is and what attack vectors hackers use to compromise their victim’s servers. Join us as we find out who the victims are and learn if there is a trend in who is being targeted.

Cyber Attacks Are on the Increase

Cyber Attacks are a huge global problem, and the escalation of cyber warfare, cyber terrorism, and state-sponsored hacking groups has exacerbated the pain significantly. Seemingly every week, the latest hacking scandal is all over the news with reports of personally identifiable information being breached.

Some estimates suggest that cyber attacks are increasing by 50% yearly, and specific industries are increasingly targeted. Education, Government, Military, Communications, Managed Service Providers, and Healthcare are the industries to most commonly have victims of cyber attacks.

We are seeing a significant rise in cyber attacks targetting the supply chain. Many high-profile breaches have occurred when a supplier gets hacked, but the customer falls prey to cyber-attacks. Perhaps the victim buys a service from the hacked service provider. We saw this trend starting to emerge in 2020, and it’s becoming a popular way to target victims.

Common Attack Techniques

Unauthorized network access is required for hackers to be able to launch a cyber attack. Attack vectors describe how hackers acquire access, and the methods vary among the hacking community. However, each technique will typically involve either social engineering, a brute force attack, or hackers taking advantage of system vulnerabilities.

#1: Social Engineering: This is any hack that involves exploiting a person to gain access to a computer environment. Social engineering is the most common form of hacking. It typically requires successful Phishing campaigns where the chosen target is contacted via email, phone, or text message by a hacker impersonating a legitimate contact, perhaps a customer, 3rd party, or service provider. The aim is to trick the victim into disclosing sensitive information, such as user credentials, or getting them to click on a fake website that downloads malware payloads to the victim’s computer. The payload can do numerous actions, such as key logging and creating a network tunnel to the hacker’s command and control center. Malware can do anything; the only restriction is the capability of the hacking group.

If the hacker compromises credentials, they could have unfettered access to your computer network. Fortunately, tools that scan network activity and random user access are available. In addition, technical solutions are available to prevent this, such as investing in multi-factor authentication. With MFA, the user authenticates with a code from an authentication app, blocking the hacker from gaining access.

#2: Brute Force: A brute force attack is when hackers try to gain access to a computer network, typically over the Internet, using harvested credentials or simply guessing the password. Any server that is publicly accessible to the Internet is a potential target. Most server use either the Remote Desktop Protocol (port 3389) or Secure Shell (SSH port 22); if a user can access a server via the Internet using the credentials, so can the hacker. All the hacker has to do is crack the username and password.

Suppose the end-user follows security best practices such as having a complex password, disabling default users, and restricting access to specific IP ranges. In that case, it’s improbable that these accounts would be cracked. However, the hacker could be inside your network in seconds if you use a default username and a simple password.

Right now, there are botnets on the Internet searching for servers that are open to the Internet. Once discovered, hackers launch dictionary attacks where a program will attempt to force a connection to a server using a password database of common and known passwords. You would be surprised by the number of guessable passwords. If you are concerned about weak credentials, enforce secure complex passwords, invest in a password manager tool, or configure a single sign-on device such as Azure AD.

#3: Vulnerabilities: Applications such as Operating Systems and business programs are constantly tested for vulnerabilities. Security experts rank the threat when a flaw is discovered and publish a Common Vulnerability and Exponotification (CVE). Patches and updates are released to fix these problems. If you are not regularly patching your servers, you may still be vulnerable to CVE.

Having a regular patching schedule is an essential best practice to adhere to. Software houses are very good at keeping on top of any threats discovered, and patches are typically released months before the exploits are known in the wild. One of the biggest threats is a hacker discovering an O-day exploit; this term describes a vulnerability that no one is aware of (apart from the hacker).

As a result, the hacker could be inside your system, and no one would ever know. Thankfully this type of attack is scarce, and only a few companies have admitted this type of breach, including Sony Motion Pictures, security company RSA, Google, Adobe Systems, Yahoo, and Dow Chemical.

#4: Misconfiguration and Denial of Service: Hackers use many different attack vectors. The misconfiguration of cloud resources is another considerable risk. There have been countless examples of users incorrectly configuring cloud storage buckets, giving the public access to confidential files in error.

Hackers also use DDoS attacks to disrupt access to networked resources, and this attack vector is used to bring websites down and cause a financial impact on the target. For example, one of the most significant recent DDoS attacks attempted to bring down parts of the AWS global network; thankfully, the provider could absorb the attack, which saw incoming traffic surge to 2.3 terabits per second.

Improve Your Cyber Security Capabilities

Maintaining a secure environment to repel the latest and greatest cyber security threats is immensely challenging. Outsourcing critical IT services to a security-conscious hosting provider like Atlantic.Net is one of the best ways to meet this need. Atlantic.Net offers a wide range of managed services built from the ground up to exceed NIST security standards. Additionally, our dedicated hosting data centers are frequently audited to adhere to PCI, HITECH, SOC2, SOC3, and HIPAA-Compliance standards.

Each Atlantic.Net platform is built to exacting standards. MFA is implemented across the business, and our engineers follow the principle of least privilege, ensuring that every user has only the required permissions to do the task.

If you would like to learn more, please reach out to the team. Contact Atlantic.Net at 888-618-DATA (3282) (toll-free) or +1-321-206-3734 (international) or by writing to us via the Contact Page, and we will be happy to assist you.

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