7 Most Common Cyber-attacks Explained

For all the convenience the internet provides, it’s also a very dangerous place. If you’re not actively protecting yourself and your data, you’re leaving your business open to many types of cyber-attack, such as social engineering, cross-site scripting, and injection attacks – more than 80% of UK organisations experienced at least one successful cyber-attack in 2020/2021. Cyber-attacks are constantly evolving – we’ve seen the advent of eavesdropping attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks over the years – but you should at least be aware of the most common types that can potentially target your business.

Types of cyber-attacks – Email attachments, cyber threats, and malicious activities

1. Malware is the root of most cyber-attacks

Malware is short for malicious software – it is harmful software that is designed to disrupt, disable, or take control of your computer system. Malware comes in many forms, and there are many types of malware, usually hidden away in a file or disguised as a harmless app. It works by taking advantage of technical flaws or vulnerabilities in your hardware and software. For most malware attacks to work, they require a key ingredient – people. Cyber-attackers find ways to trick people into running a malicious file, opening an infected file, or clicking an unsafe web link. Antivirus software can be one remedy for this.

2. Encrypting files, demanding a ransom, and network vulnerability

A ransomware attack is one of the most dangerous forms of malware today. This type of attack threatens to publish the victim’s data, or completely block access to it, unless a ransom is paid. Ransomware has increased in usage because more businesses are willing to pay a ransom to get their data back. In 2020, 13% of all UK businesses who suffered this type of attack reportedly paid the ransom.

3. Don’t fall for the bait – malicious email attachment, suspicious activity, and legitimate requests

Phishing – as the name suggests, like a fisherman dropping bait into the water, phishing attacks try to lure unsuspecting people into revealing personal information. This is where a line is set out into an unsuspecting user’s email inbox and then somebody grabs that fishing line and it drags them in intended to deceive that person into perhaps clicking on a malicious link or following certain instructions that may appear to have come from a legitimate source. Reports have found that May 2021 was a record month, with a 440% increase representing the largest spike in phishing attacks in a single month.

All phishing attacks have something in common, they exploit human nature rather than technology. Many phishing emails trigger your emotions by telling you something is wrong, or that bad things will happen if you don’t respond. Phishing emails often want you to act with urgency, and most phishing emails try to build trust by impersonating a brand or person you know.

Overloading the system, SQL injection explained, and other cyber security threats

4. DoS (Denial of Service Attack) targets the website or the backend database, flooding it with fake traffic, resulting in the website crashing down. A more sophisticated attack is a DDos (distributed denial of service) attack, which sends traffic not from one single source but from multiple sources all at the same time, in the hope of overloading the system.

5. SQL injections are one of the common cyber-risks, in part because of how simple it is to perform. SQL injection involves using code to hack databases and steal information. SQL stands for structured query language, which is a type of computer language used to pass information across databases. This type of attack injects malicious code into databases to retrieve sensitive customer data, and is very commonly done on login screens.

6. The strength of passwords matter, as does cyber-security controls

Password attack – for hackers, cracking passwords is one of the easiest ways to hack a system, as no prior knowledge about the victim is needed to start an attack. There is a risk of hackers easily gaining full user access and causing a data breach, impacting not only business owners, but also customers that may have logins to the business’ website. Attackers let the computer do the work, by trying different combinations of usernames, default passwords, and common passwords until they find the one that works (known as password guessing). Due to this repeated trial and error format, the strength of password matters a great deal.

7. Insider threats

Your business can be attacked from within – security threats are everywhere, and you may have internal security flaws. Here the hacker gains access to the information path between the user’s device and the website server. By doing so, the communication line between the user and the website is secretly obstructed. This commonly happens with unsecured WiFi networks connections. These attackers know how the business’ system is configured and know its weaknesses. Security measures and constant monitoring are key for business safety.

What happens when a small business gets attacked?

Have you ever thought about what would happen if your business was targeted by a cyber-attack? When your business is hacked, it’s not just data you lose. Your business, your money, your reputation, your customers and suppliers, as well as your data, your IT equipment and your services are all at risk if you suffer a cyber incident.

Protect your small business today and be ready for tomorrow’s threats

Implementing the right Cyber Insurance policy for your business can feel overwhelming if you’re unsure what needs protecting, and what cyber-security you need. But that’s not an excuse to ignore the protection you need in the event of a cyber-attack. Protect your small business today and be ready for tomorrow’s threats with one of our Cyber Insurance quotes. Our Cyber Insurance policies can protect your business from a range of risks such as data breaches, hacker damage, privacy protection and more.

Speak to one of our insurance team today to learn more about our Cyber Insurance options and how we can help protect your business.