10 Common Attack Vectors & How to Avoid Them
As the world becomes increasingly digital, cyber threats continue to grow in number and complexity. In recent years, attack vectors have seen a sharp rise, with the COVID-19 ...
22/03/2023 | 2 Minute Read
As the world becomes increasingly digital, cyber threats continue to grow in number and complexity. In recent years, attack vectors have seen a sharp rise, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the digital transformation of businesses and making them more vulnerable to cyber attacks. The shift to remote work and reliance on cloud-based technologies has created new entry points for hackers to exploit. To make matters worse, cybercriminals have become more sophisticated and are using advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to breach systems.
What is an Attack Vector?
An attack vector is a method or pathway used by cybercriminals to gain unauthorised access to a computer system or network and compromise its data. It refers to a vulnerability or weakness in the system that can be exploited by an attacker to carry out an attack.
There are many different attack vectors, but some of the most common ones are SQL injection, phishing, social engineering, cross-site scripting, denial of service, brute force attacks, malware, and exploitation of vulnerabilities. Below is a detailed explanation of each vector, and some of the best practices to avoid them.
Common Attack Vectors and Best Practices to Avoid Them
Attack Vector 1: Compromised Credentials
Usernames and passwords remain the most common type of access credential. Compromised credentials occur when login information is exposed to unauthorised entities, often due to phishing attacks. Compromised credentials provide insider access to attackers and bypass perimeter security, making detection difficult. The risk of compromised credentials varies based on the level of access they provide, with privileged access credentials posing the highest risk. Machine-to-machine credentials also exist, which can allow unfettered access if obtained by an intruder.
Best practice: Enforce strong password policies that discourage common usernames, weak passwords and use of the same password for multiple apps and systems. Two-factor authentication, using a trusted second factor, can reduce the risk of breaches resulting from compromised credentials within the organisation. The implementation of the principal of least privilege will ensure that if credentials are compromised, that the threat is minimised.
Attack Vector 2: SQL Injection
SQL injection is a type of attack in which an attacker inserts malicious code into a SQL statement to gain unauthorised access to a database.
Best practice: Use parameterised queries and prepared statements to prevent SQL injection attacks.
Attack Vector 3: Phishing
Phishing is a type of attack that involves tricking a user into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, by posing as a trustworthy entity.
Best practice: Be cautious of suspicious emails, do not click on links from untrusted sources, and always verify the authenticity of a website. Analysing user and device web and email behaviour can reveal valuable risk insights for your business. When in doubt, it’s best to call the organisation you received the email from to determine if it is a phishing scam or not.
Attack Vector 4: Misconfiguration
Misconfiguration is an error in system setup that can lead to breaches, such as enabling setup pages or using default login credentials. Leaving setup/app server configuration enabled can expose hidden flaws, giving hackers extra information. Attackers exploit misconfigured devices and apps as easy entry points
Best practice: Implement procedures and systems that improve your configuration process and leverage automation when possible. Monitor application and device settings against best practices to identify misconfigured devices on your network. Align your security strategy to industry standards and frameworks.
Attack Vector 5: Cross-site Scripting
Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of attack that injects malicious code into a website to steal data from the site’s visitors.
Best practice: Use input validation and output encoding to prevent cross-site scripting attacks.
Attack Vector 6: Denial of Service
A denial of service (DoS) attack is an attempt to make a computer or network unavailable to users by overwhelming it with traffic.
Best practice: Use DoS prevention measures, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, to mitigate DoS attacks.
Attack Vector 7: Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks are a type of attack that involves guessing passwords or other authentication mechanisms until the correct one is found.
Best practice: Use strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and limit the number of login attempts to prevent brute force attacks.
Attack Vector 8: Malware
Malware is a type of software that is designed to harm a computer system or steal data.
Best practice: Install and regularly update antivirus software and avoid downloading software from untrusted sources.
Attack Vector 9: Exploitation of Vulnerabilities
Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities in software or operating systems to gain unauthorised access to a system or network.
Best practice: Regularly update software and operating systems to patch vulnerabilities and use intrusion detection and prevention systems to detect and prevent exploitation attempts.
Attack Vector 10: Ransomware
Ransomware is a type of cyber-extortion that prevents users from accessing their data until a ransom is paid. Users are provided with instructions on how to pay a fee, usually in Bitcoin, to obtain the decryption key. Ransoms can vary from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
Best practice: Regularly back up data, use and update anti-malware software, avoid suspicious links and attachments, keep software up to date, and train employees on how to avoid attacks.
There are numerous attack vectors that cybercriminals use to gain unauthorised access. Understanding these attack vectors and the ways to avoid them is crucial to protecting yourself and your organisation from potential threats. To identify potential security weaknesses in your posture, please click here.