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8 Most Common Types of Cyberattacks You Need to Know

8 Most Common Types of Cyberattacks You Need to Know

How Much Do Aussie Businesses Know About Cyberattacks?8 Most Common Types of Cyberattacks You Need to Know

Hardly a day goes by without a cyberattack making it to the Australian news. The most recent incident involved Canva, an Australian-founded graphic design website. A hacker group has taken responsibility for the attack that affected as many as 139 million users. While the company is attempting to rectify the situation by working with law enforcement officers, it seems the damage has already been done. Social media users are calling out the company for their too-little-too-late approach.

What’s Your IT Security Approach

To avoid this type of situation, Aussie business owners should be proactive when it comes to IT security. Assurances that the company is taking security concerns seriously don’t have a great impact when given after the fact.

A company hit by any of the many types of cyber attacks is likely to experience financial, reputational and legal losses. Apart from losing money due to the theft of corporate information, the company also erodes its customers’ trust, leading to a reduction in profits. Irate customers may also file lawsuits against a business for not having the proper safeguards in place to protect their data against the many types of cyber attacks.

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Know Your Enemy

When it comes to cybersecurity, it pays to know your enemy. To effectively strategise against common cyber attack types, you need to know what they are and what makes them different from the others. The following are some of the most common types of cyber attacks:

Malware Attack

Malware is a broad term for software that is designed specifically to steal data, such as personally identifiable information, trade secrets and intellectual property. It is installed into a user’s system without the user’s knowledge or consent. You can pick up malware simply by visiting a website or downloading a game.

There are several kinds of malware. These include:

1. Viruses

Just like the flu or the common cold, a virus in tech terms can replicate itself and spread to other devices. It attaches itself to legitimate programs and executes harmful code when you open them. Hackers use viruses to carry out many types of cyber attacks, including stealing information, destroying files and taking over information systems.

2. Ransomware

Like its name implies, ransomware locks users out of a program, file or device. The hacker then demands payment in exchange for restoring access. Cybercriminals using ransomware can also blackmail users by threatening to publish private information unless a ransom is paid.

3. Trojan Horses

Named after the wooden horse in Ancient Greek mythology, a Trojan is a software imposter. It looks like a legitimate executable file—that is, until you’ve downloaded and initiated it.

Like other types of cyber attacks, Trojans damage or steal your data. They can also create a backdoor to your system that can be exploited by cybercriminals. However, unlike viruses, Trojans cannot infect other files or replicate themselves.

4. Stealth Viruses

This type of virus is particularly difficult to eradicate. Even if you run an antivirus scan, chances are it will just come up clear. These types of cyber attacks can compromise antivirus software so that it will erroneously report that the system is uninfected. Also, during a scan, stealth viruses will temporarily leave the infected file and copy itself to another drive. It then leaves a clean file in its place to avoid detection.

You can get infected by a stealth virus from accidentally downloading suspicious email attachments and installing malicious software. Some stealth viruses are also embedded in legitimate programs.

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Denial-of-Service and Distributed-Denial-of-Service Attacks

The purpose of DoS and DDoS attacks is to make a service or website unavailable. These two types of cyber attacks overwhelm systems by flooding them with requests, consuming their network bandwidth and eating up processing resources.

While a DoS attack typically uses a single computer and internet connection, a DDoS attack is launched by a large network of computers infected by malware and controlled by cybercriminals. Owners of host computers may be unaware that their devices are being used for DoS and DDoS attacks.

IT security experts warn that these two types of cyber attacks are on the rise. Aussie business owners should be worried—a DoS or DDoS attack can last several days and cost an organisation approximately $57,000 an hour.

There are many kinds of DoS and DDoS attacks. These include:

1. TCP SYN Flood

A three-way handshake in transmission control protocol (TCP) establishes a connection between a server and a client. It requires the client to request a connection by sending a synchronize (SYN) message to the server. The server responds with a synchronize-acknowledge (SYN ACK). Then, the client sends an acknowledgment (ACK) to complete the connection.

During a TCP SYN flood attack, the attacker floods all of the server’s ports with SYN packets. However, when the server replies, the attacker does not respond. The system ends up waiting; meanwhile, the ports stay open and vulnerable to attack.

2. Botnets

A botnet is a group of Internet-connected computers that have been infected with malware. It is controlled remotely by an attacker called a ‘bot herder’. The bot herder uses the botnet to carry out orchestrated, large-scale attacks against their target networks.

3. Ping of Death

This is a DoS/DDoS attack in which a cybercriminal sends a packet that is larger than 65,536 bytes—the maximum size that some TCP/IP systems allow. Because TCP/IP allows fragmentation, attackers can send packets in smaller systems that are eventually reassembled. This causes a buffer overload on the operating system, resulting in crashing.

Most modern operating systems are already designed to prevent pings of death. However, legacy systems are still vulnerable to attack.

Phishing Quiz

Can you spot when you’re being phished? Take the quiz!


The goal of hackers who initiate a phishing attack is to get targets to divulge sensitive information or perform actions that compromise their data. A typical attack involves sending emails that appear to be from trusted sources. These messages will ask for personally identifiable information (PIN), passwords and credit card details for some fabricated reason.

Hackers also create malicious websites that look as if they belong to legitimate organisations. Site visitors are asked for information that cyber criminals can use to commit identity theft.

While phishing generally involves sending mass emails or messages to random people, spear phishing focuses on a specific individual or organisation. Spear phishing and phishing are two types of cyber attacks that utilise social engineering tactics to ‘personalize’ their messages and websites in order to gain the trust of targets.

The Final Word

With the increase in frequency and number and severity of these types of cyber attacks, Aussie businesses must take their efforts to the next level to protect their information and prevent data breaches. They must design and implement a security strategy that addresses external, internal and lateral threats.

An IT audit is an essential step in determining whether a business’ security protocols are up to par. It involves examining and evaluating physical security controls as well as all IT processes. The results will tell you whether your current setup protects your assets, ensures data integrity and aligns with your organisation’s goals. With an IT audit, you can identify any weak spots in your cybersecurity armour and address them before they turn into entry points for hackers.


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