20 Most common Types of Cyber Attacks

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types of cyber attacks

Many businesses are unaware of the lurking cyberattacks that can lead to staggering financial losses.

Recent reports show a 14% increase in the cost of cybercrime, highlighting the growing risk faced by companies today. From cunning email compromise tactics to the targeted precision of Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams and the direct assault of online banking fraud—can your business afford to ignore these threats?

It’s time to stay vigilant and understand these cyber threats before they strike, safeguarding your operations from costly disruptions. With our managed cybersecurity services, you gain access to advanced protection tailored to meet your business’s specific needs.

In this blog, we have explained common types of cyberattacks, from the deceptive simplicity of phishing to the complex machinations of ransomware and beyond. This insight into each attack type will help you build a robust defence strategy.

20 Common Types of Cyber Attacks


Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals sending fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source, typically via email. The primary objective is to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal data.

These emails often mimic those from banks, social media sites, or other trusted entities and may include links to fake websites that look almost identical to legitimate ones. Once a victim enters their credentials on these fake sites, the information is captured by the attackers.

For example, a user might receive an email that looks like it’s from their bank, urging them to click on a link to verify their account information. Upon clicking, they are directed to a counterfeit site that records their login details.

phishing attacks scams



Malware, short for malicious software, is designed to infiltrate and damage computers, servers, or networks. This broad category includes various types of harmful programs such as viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, and spyware. Malware can be introduced into a system through various means, including downloads, email attachments, or even visiting compromised websites.

Once inside a system, malware can perform numerous malicious activities, such as stealing sensitive information, encrypting files to demand ransom, or creating backdoors for future access.

A notable example of a malware attack is the Zeus Trojan, first identified in 2007, which was a widespread spyware that targeted online banking users, capturing login credentials and facilitating fraudulent transactions. Trojans are malware disguised as legitimate software or files.

Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection

SQL Injection attack is a technique used by attackers to exploit vulnerabilities in web applications that interact with databases. It involves inserting or “injecting” malicious SQL statements into a query through input fields that have not been properly sanitised. This can allow attackers to view, modify, or delete database records.

For example, consider a simple login form that doesn’t properly sanitise user input. An attacker could enter a statement like “; DROP TABLE Users; –” into the username or password field. The ‘;’ ends the original query, the DROP TABLE users; is the code that instructs the database to delete the critical user’s table and — Comments out the rest of the SQL query to avoid syntax errors. This kind of attack can expose or destroy sensitive information stored in databases, such as user passwords, financial details, and personal records.


Ransomware is a particularly malicious form of malware designed to encrypt a victim’s files, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks typically infiltrate systems through phishing emails or by exploiting software vulnerabilities. Once ransomware gains access, it employs advanced encryption techniques to lock down files and hold them hostage.

Attackers then demand a ransom, often in cryptocurrency, in exchange for a decryption key. A prominent example of such an attack is the 2017 WannaCry ransomware outbreak. This notorious malware rapidly infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows operating systems. Once it encrypted the files, the attackers demanded payment in Bitcoin to unlock the compromised data.

ransomware attacks


Denial-of-Service (DoS)

A Denial-of-Service attack aims to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by overwhelming it with a flood of internet traffic. This type of attack usually involves sending a large volume of requests to the targeted server, exhausting its resources and causing it to slow down or crash. DoS attacks can disrupt the services of websites, email, or other online operations.

For instance, in 2000, a series of DoS attacks disrupted major websites like Yahoo, eBay, and Amazon, rendering them inaccessible to users by overloading their servers with excessive requests.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are similar to DoS attacks but are executed from multiple computers or devices, often forming a botnet. These attacks leverage the power of many compromised systems to generate massive amounts of traffic aimed at a single target, making it much harder to defend against compared to a typical DoS attack.

The 2016 DDoS attack on Dyn, a major DNS provider, is a prominent example. The attack utilised a botnet composed of IoT devices like cameras and printers to flood Dyn’s servers with traffic, causing widespread outages and temporarily unavailable major websites like Twitter, Netflix, and Reddit.

Is your web application at risk of SQL injection attacks? We perform regular vulnerability assessments to ensure your applications are shielded from SQL injection threats. Reach out to us to protect your valuable data from these stealthy and damaging attacks.

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)

Eavesdropping or man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks happen when a third party surreptitiously records and may modify the conversation between two parties that think they are speaking with each other directly. This can occur via a number of techniques, including DNS spoofing and Wi-Fi eavesdropping.

Once in the middle, the attacker can insert harmful content into the conversation or steal confidential data like login passwords. For instance, if an attacker manages to snoop on a user’s online banking session, they may be able to obtain the user’s login information or divert them to a phoney website in order to collect further information.

Brute Force Attack

Brute force assaults entail methodically attempting each and every password or encryption key combination until the right one is discovered. Attackers take advantage of the fact that many users still use weak or simple-to-guess passwords by using automated tools to try millions of potential passwords or keys against a target system.

Even though it takes a while, this technique works well in cases where there are no safeguards, such as account lockouts following multiple unsuccessful tries. An attacker may, for example, use a brute-force tool to attempt thousands of password combinations until they find the one that works on an online banking website.

brute force attack to crack password


Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of attack where malicious codes are injected into otherwise benign and trusted websites. XSS vulnerabilities allow attackers to execute scripts in the user’s browser, which can then access cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information stored by the site. These scripts can be used to steal data or impersonate the user.

For example, in an XSS attack, if an attacker injects a script into a comment section on a popular website, any user who views the comment may inadvertently execute the script, potentially compromising their account or revealing their personal information.

Zero-Day Exploit

A zero-day exploit targets a software vulnerability that is unknown to the software vendor or has not yet been patched. “Zero-day” refers to the fact that developers have had zero days to fix the vulnerability since it’s new or previously undisclosed.

Using zero-day exploits, attackers gain access or control over affected systems before a patch is available, making these attacks particularly dangerous. The Stuxnet worm is a famous example of a zero-day attack. It exploited multiple zero-day vulnerabilities in Windows to target and disrupt Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, causing significant operational damage.

Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks compel people into doing things or disclosing private information. Instead of relying on technological flaws, these attacks take advantage of psychological traits like trust, curiosity, fear, or urgency. Phishing emails, calls pretending to be technical support, and physical infiltration (such as tailgating into a secure area) are common strategies.

For instance, a hacker may phone a worker posing as the IT department and request their login credentials while claiming to be resolving a technical problem. The attacker can access the organisation’s systems and data once they have these facts.

Concerned about weak passwords granting unauthorised access? We implement strong password policies along with multi-factor authentication to create a robust login defence. Contact us today.

DNS Spoofing

DNS Spoofing, also known as DNS cache poisoning, involves altering the DNS records of a legitimate website to redirect traffic to a malicious site. DNS translates domain names into IP addresses, so by compromising DNS records, attackers can reroute users to fake websites without their knowledge.

For instance, if an attacker poisons a network’s DNS cache to replace the IP address of a bank’s website with that of a phishing site, users trying to access the bank’s site would be unknowingly directed to the fraudulent one. Here, the attackers can capture login details or install malware on the users’ systems.

Session Hijacking

Session hijacking is a technique where an attacker takes over a user’s session with a web server, usually by stealing or predicting session cookies. These cookies are used to authenticate users and maintain their sessions. If an attacker captures these cookies, they can impersonate the user and gain unauthorised access to their accounts.

For example, an attacker might use network sniffing tools to intercept session cookies from a user’s browser during an unencrypted Wi-Fi session, then use those cookies to access the user’s email or social media accounts as if they were legitimate users.

IoT Attacks

IoT (Internet of Things) attacks target connected devices like smart home gadgets, wearables, and industrial systems. Many IoT devices have weak security measures, such as default passwords or outdated software, making them attractive targets for attackers.

Once compromised, these devices can be used to launch further attacks, steal sensitive data, or become part of a botnet. The Mirai botnet attack is a prime example, where attackers compromised hundreds of thousands of IoT devices, like cameras and routers, to create a massive network used to launch DDoS attacks against high-profile websites.

make iot devices vulnerable

Insider Threat

Insider threats involve risks posed by individuals within an organisation, such as employees, contractors, or business partners, who have access to internal systems and data. These insiders might intentionally or unintentionally cause harm by leaking sensitive information, stealing intellectual property, or sabotaging systems.

For instance, an employee with access to sensitive financial data might download and sell it to a competitor. Insider threats are particularly challenging to defend against because insiders often bypass external security measures and have legitimate access to the organisation’s resources.

Lacking the in-house expertise to manage your cybersecurity? At Binary IT, we offer managed security services with 24/7 monitoring and threat detection to keep your network protected around the clock. Contact us today for managed security services.

Drive-By Download

Drive-by download attacks occur when a user visits a compromised or malicious website that automatically downloads malware onto their device without their knowledge or consent. These attacks often exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers, plugins, or other software to deliver the payload.

For example, an attacker might embed a malicious script in an ad on a legitimate website. When a user visits the page, the script runs and silently downloads a trojan or ransomware onto their computer. Drive-by downloads can infect systems simply by visiting the wrong website, making them a stealthy and effective method for distributing malware.

Also Read: How Can You Avoid Downloading Malicious Codes?

Exploit Kits

Exploit kits are automated tools used by attackers to identify and exploit software vulnerabilities to install malware or gain access to systems. These kits often target common weaknesses in web browsers, operating systems, and applications. They typically work by scanning a victim’s device for vulnerabilities and then deploying the appropriate exploit to compromise the system.

For example, the Angler Exploit Kit was notorious for exploiting browser and plugin vulnerabilities to install ransomware and other malicious payloads on victims’ machines. Exploit kits make it easier for attackers to deploy complex attacks without requiring deep technical knowledge.

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Business Email Compromise attacks target organisations by impersonating company executives, vendors, or partners to trick employees into transferring funds or confidential information. Attackers often use spear-phishing techniques to compromise email accounts and send convincing fraudulent messages. An example is an attacker posing as the CEO, emailing the finance department to urgently wire money to a “new” vendor account that is actually controlled by the attacker.

Watering Hole Attack

Watering hole attacks involve compromising a website that is frequently visited by the targeted group, essentially setting a trap for them. The attackers identify websites that their target audience is likely to visit and infect them with malware. When users visit these sites, they unknowingly download malicious software, which can then be used to spy on them or steal their information.

For example, an attacker targeting a specific company might infect a website known to be visited by its employees. When those employees visit the site, their systems become infected, allowing the attacker to breach the company’s network.

Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing or password attacks is the practice of leveraging previously stolen username and password pairs to obtain unauthorised access to other accounts. This type of attack takes advantage of users’ propensity to repeat passwords across various sites. Attackers employ automated systems to validate these credentials on multiple websites, hoping that at least some of them will match.

For example, if an attacker acquires a list of usernames and passwords from a compromised e-commerce site, they may use those credentials to attempt to enter into customers’ social networking or banking accounts, leveraging password reuse.


By understanding the various tactics employed in common cyber attacks, such as malware, phishing, and social engineering, you can take proactive measures to safeguard your data and devices. Regular software updates, strong passwords, and a healthy dose of scepticism towards unsolicited communication can significantly bolster our defences.

Remember, cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and by staying informed and adopting safe practices, you can navigate the digital world with greater confidence. Our expert team is dedicated to safeguarding your business from the myriad of cyber threats out there, ensuring your data and assets remain secure. Reach out to us today to start building a safer, more secure future for your company.



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