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Common Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks may be un-targeted or targeted.

Un-targeted attacks

In un-targeted attacks, attackers indiscriminately target as many devices, services or users as possible. They do not care about who the victim is as there will be a number of machines or services with vulnerabilities. To do this, they use techniques that take advantage of the openness of the Internet, which include:

  • Phishing – sending emails to large numbers of people asking for sensitive information (such as bank details) or encouraging them to visit a fake website.
  • Water holing – setting up a fake website or compromising a legitimate one in order to exploit visiting users.
  • Ransomware – which could include disseminating disk encrypting extortion malware.
  • Scanning – attacking wide swathes of the Internet at random.

Targeted attacks

In a targeted attack, your organisation is singled out because the attacker has a specific interest in your business, or has been paid to target you. The groundwork for the attack could take months so that they can find the best route to deliver their exploit directly to your systems (or users). A targeted attack is often more damaging than an un-targeted one because it has been specifically tailored to attack your systems, processes or personnel, in the office and sometimes at home. Targeted attacks may include:

  • Spear-phishing – sending emails to targeted individuals that could contain an attachment with malicious software, or a link that downloads malicious software.
  • Deploying a botnet – to deliver a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack.
  • Subverting the supply chain – to attack equipment or software being delivered to the organisation.

In general attackers will, in the first instance, use commodity tools and techniques to probe your systems for an exploitable vulnerability.

Source of Information

Information taken from CESG publication “Common cyber attacks – Reducing the impact“.

Reproduced under the Open Government Licence.