What Is a Cyber Attack?

Wondering “What is a cyber attack?” First, let’s define a cyber attack: A computer cyber attack is a malicious and deliberate digital attack carried out by an individual or organization. The potential victim’s IT systems are disrupted, resulting in theft, reputational damage, or general data corruption. 

 Sound bad? Wait until you learn about how many types of cyber attacks there are. 

TL;DR: Cyber attacks are malicious, deliberate attacks against IT systems, with the intent to wreak havoc. Most types of cyber attacks are very costly for the organizations that fall victim to them. Learn about cyber attack protection from Interplay.  

Types of Cyber Attacks Explained

Considering that cyber attacks are lucrative for criminals, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are a ton of different types of cyber attacks. Here is a quick list. Feel free to ask the IT management experts at Interplay for more examples if you’re curious. 

  • Phishing – an email, phone call, or text message leads you to a fake page for a trusted source (such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, or Netflix) to collect your credit card number, login data, or other sensitive info. 
  • Malware – “malicious software” (mal+ware), including ransomware and spyware, that installs after you click a link usually found in an email or on a webpage. What is a cyber attack from malware? One that can block access to your files, corrupt your system’s standard operating practices, or secretly share data. 
  • SQL injection – Structured Query Language (SQL) database attacks place a malicious code into your SQL server that forces the database to reveal query results that are usually hidden. 
  • Zero Day exploit – attack that happens after a vulnerability is discovered but before a patch is released. The vulnerability can last months or years before a solution is created and is often discovered by the attacker and not made public. 
  • DoS or DDoS attack – “Denial of Service” attacks overload your systems, networks, or servers with illegitimate traffic to slow down your resources and bandwidth and block legitimate traffic. DDoS “Distributed Denial of Service” attacks use multiple tech devices (a “botnet”) to do this. 
  • Spoofing – a form of phishing attack also known as “business email compromise” in which in an attacker pretends to be a trusted source, such as your company’s CEO, to result in a knee-jerk reaction of following directions without asking questions. (This is becoming a big problem right now.) 
  • DNS Tunneling – like a secret VPN that can be used for command-and-control attacks on your servers or to steal data under the radar. 
  • Man in the Middle – “MitM” attacks put someone between your computer sending data and a data receiver like a router. This happens most frequently in unsecured Wi-Fi setups and can be likened to someone secretly listening in on your phone conversation by picking up the receiver very quietly (a reference that Gen Z will not understand). 

What Is the Frequency and Purpose of a Cyber Attack? 

What is a cyber attack used for? Well, it’s the first step a cybercriminal must take before they can commit a cyber crime. 

A cyber attack attempts to breach the system’s walls, whereas a cyber crime is when a criminal successfully steals data or identity information. Other reasons a cybercriminal may want to launch a cyber attack are to: 

  • Cause a business disruption
  • Enact retribution for a real or imagined slight
  • Engage in “hacktivism,” which shines light on causes near and dear to the criminals

Since there are a lot of cybercriminals (and wannabe cybercriminals) out there, and because cyber attacks are really easy to run, this means cyber attacks are happening all day, every day, across the world. 

Why It’s Important to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

If cyber attacks are happening every day, it may seem like it’s not worth the cost and effort it takes to fight them. 

Trust us: it’s way more costly to become the victim of a successful attack than it is to defend against them. 

The costs of a cyber attack range from expensive downtime to reputation damage to lost records (including tax records) and non-compliance fines. Plus, it costs a lot to pay a ransom or to recover from any kind of malware attack. 

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is a cyber attack?” you’re probably ready to know how to stop them. If you’re looking for ways your organization can protect against cyber attack, we recommend talking to the Seattle-based and super-knowledgeable IT experts at Interplay. 

Reach out to Interplay to learn more about cyber attack protection. 

For 20 years, the friendly and knowledgeable team at Interplay in Seattle has helped business leaders across a range of industries get more out of their tech, stress free. Not only are we always (and we mean always) happy to offer the best managed IT services, support, and advice, we’re also the team you can trust for the best cocktail recommendations here in Seattle or in Disney World – we’re versatile! All humor aside though, we’d love to help you get your IT running smoothly and securely, around the clock.