To effectively shield your organization from cyber attacks, it’s vital to understand cyber attack vectors. After all, how do you know what you should be doing to defend, if you don’t have an idea of the threats?

But what are cyber attack vectors? ‘Vectors’ are methods or pathways exploited by hackers to access computer systems, networks, or applications without authorization. Familiar with common cyber attack vectors like malware, phishing, social engineering, and ransomware? Unsure how to defend against them?

We’ll get into that later.

But why should you care? By exploiting vulnerabilities in an organization’s cybersecurity defenses, cybercriminals can access sensitive data, intellectual property, and personally identifiable information.

By understanding different cyber attack vectors and their usage, organizations can create a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy to protect against them.

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated and as new vulnerabilities are discovered, they continually evolve cyber attack vectors. With the average cost of a data breach reaching $4.35 million, it’s essential to have a thorough understanding of attack vectors and how to prevent them. By being proactive and taking steps to minimize potential attack vectors, we can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach or cyber attack.

In this article, we will delve into the world of cyber attack vectors, their definition, and their importance.

Types of Cyber Attack Vectors

  1. Malware – Malware, or malicious software, is designed to harm, exploit, or take control of a computer system. There are various types of malware, such as viruses, worms, Trojans, and ransomware. Email attachments, infected websites, or malicious links deliver malware. Once installed, malware steals sensitive data, installs other malware, or gains unauthorized access to a network or system.
  2. Phishing – Phishing is a social engineering technique used to trick people into revealing sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information. Emails, texts, or calls impersonating legitimate sources prompt recipients to take action such as clicking links, downloading attachments, or sharing personal information in phishing attacks.
  3. Social Engineering – Social engineering covers various techniques used to manipulate people into giving away confidential information or access to systems. It includes phishing, pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo. Pretexting involves creating a false pretense or scenario to extract information, while baiting offers something in exchange for access to sensitive data. Quid pro quo is the exchange of something of value for confidential information.
  4. DDoS Attacks – Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks overwhelm a system, network, or website with traffic, rendering it unavailable. DDoS attacks can be launched using botnets, which are networks of infected devices controlled by a hacker. Additionally, these attacks can cause significant damage, resulting in lost revenue, reputation damage, and legal liability.
  5. SQL Injections – SQL injections target databases behind web applications. These attacks use malicious code to exploit software vulnerabilities, accessing sensitive data. SQL injections are popular attack vectors because they are relatively easy to execute and can provide access to valuable data.
  6. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks – Man-in-the-middle attacks happen when a cybercriminal intercepts communication between two parties, eavesdropping or altering the information exchanged. These attacks are often used to steal sensitive data like login credentials or financial information. Man-in-the-middle attacks can occur in various ways, including through phishing emails or by exploiting software or network vulnerabilities.
  7. Compromised Credentials – Compromised credentials are a prevalent attack vector because they offer hackers direct access to networks or systems. These credentials become compromised when attackers obtain login information through phishing, brute force attacks, or malware. Once inside, cybercriminals can move laterally within a network, steal sensitive data, or deploy malware.
  8. Insider Threats – Insider threats arise when individuals with access to sensitive information or systems cause harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Moreover, insider threats are particularly hazardous since insiders already have authorized access to a system, allowing them to execute an attack without detection.
  9. Third and fourth-party vendors pose cybersecurity risks as they often have access to sensitive data and networks, making them potential weak links in your security strategy. Recent data breaches have highlighted the impact of compromised vendors and service providers.
  10. Misconfigurations – errors in system or network setup, rendering them vulnerable to attack. Moreover, these errors, such as weak passwords or misconfigured firewalls, can be exploited by hackers to access systems or steal data. Additionally, cloud misconfiguration is becoming an increasingly common attack vector against enterprises.
  11. Trojans deceive users by masquerading as legitimate software, often spreading through infected email attachments or counterfeit apps.
  12. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) injects malicious code into a website, targeting its visitors rather than the site itself.
  13. DNS Tunnelling bypasses network security measures, exfiltrating data by creating covert communication channels using DNS queries and responses.

Real-World Examples of Cyber Attack Vectors

IBM’s 2022 Cost of Data Breaches Report states that of the 550 companies that experienced a data breach, a staggering 83% had more than one incident in the same period. Common attack vectors include credential theft, phishing, misconfigured cloud, and third-party software vulnerabilities. Saying that, healthcare continues to post the highest average recovery costs, while database attacks have emerged as a viable attack vector. Recent high-profile cyber attacks include:

In particular, hackers have taken to targeting managed service providers as potential ransom sources, and the rapidly expanding market for managing crypto assets has exposed security flaws that hackers quickly exploit.

Ransomware has also emerged as a significant cyber threat in Europe’s transportation sector. ENISA’s report reveals ransomware incidents doubled to 25%, making it the top cyber threat. Data-related threats increased, and hacktivist DDoS attacks rose to 13%. Understanding these threats is crucial for enhancing cybersecurity in this industry.

Which are the most common attack vectors used by criminals?

A review of recent high-profile cyber attacks reveals several common attack vectors employed by cybercriminals.

  • Credential theft, which accounted for 19% of attacks in IBM’s 2022 Cost of Data Breaches Report, involves stealing usernames and passwords to access sensitive systems and data.
  • Phishing attacks accounted for 16% of attacks and involve deceiving individuals into divulging sensitive information, often through misleading emails or social engineering techniques.
  • Misconfigured cloud infrastructure was a significant attack vector, accounting for 15% of attacks in the IBM report. Furthermore, attackers exploit vulnerabilities in improperly configured cloud infrastructure, resulting in unauthorized access to data and systems.
  • Third-party software vulnerabilities accounted for 13% of attacks, with attackers exploiting weaknesses to gain unauthorized access.

What are best practices for reducing risk for your business or organization?

Take proactive steps to secure networks, educate employees and implement best practices to bolster organizational security.

  1. Update software and security patches routinely: Software vulnerabilities are frequently exploited by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access. Regular updates can protect organizations from known vulnerabilities.
  2. To prevent access to sensitive data, it is important to employ strong, unique passwords. To mitigate this risk, individuals should use strong, unique passwords that they change periodically because weak or reused passwords can be easily cracked.

  3. Utilize multi-factor authentication: This adds an extra security layer to the authentication process, requiring additional information like fingerprints, security tokens, or one-time passwords.
  4. Use firewalls to block unauthorized traffic and encryption to protect sensitive data from being accessed without a decryption key.
  5. Regularly monitor networks to detect and address suspicious activity before it escalates.
  6. Securely backup data frequently to enable restoration after cyber attacks and store it offsite to protect against physical disasters or theft.

Tips for Educating Employees on Cyber Security

In today’s tech-driven world, employees are critical for securing an organization’s network and systems. Additionally, educating employees on cyber security best practices and fostering a culture of awareness and accountability is vital. Here are some strategies for cyber security education:

  • Offer cyber security training and awareness programs: Regular training on best practices, identifying phishing emails, secure passwords, and recognizing suspicious links helps employees grasp the importance of cyber security.
  • Encourage strong, unique passwords: Urge employees to use strong, unique passwords, avoid reusing them across accounts, and enable two-factor authentication.
  • Train employees to recognize and report phishing emails and suspicious links, cautioning against clicking on unknown sources.
  • Promote a cyber security culture of awareness and accountability, with clear reporting processes for suspicious activity.

Policies to reduce attack vectors: overview of cyber security frameworks and standards

Cybersecurity frameworks are critical tools that organizations can use to enhance their cybersecurity posture. Moreover, they offer guidelines and best practices to secure information systems and data for organizations.

Additionally, there are several frameworks and standards available for organizations to choose from, each with its unique features and benefits.

  1. NIST Cybersecurity Framework – The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a set of guidelines developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help organizations manage and reduce their cybersecurity risks. The framework consists of five core functions: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. The subcategories break down each function and offer specific guidance on how to implement the framework. Organizations of all sizes and types can customize the framework to meet their specific needs and utilize it.
  2. ISO 27001/27002 – ISO 27001 is an international standard that provides a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an information security management system (ISMS). The standard provides a systematic approach to managing sensitive information to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability. ISO 27002 is a code of practice for information security management that provides a comprehensive set of guidelines for implementing and maintaining an ISMS based on ISO 27001. It covers a broad range of security controls, including access control, cryptography, physical security, and network security.
  3. CIS Controls – The CIS Controls are a set of prioritized, actionable, and measurable cybersecurity best practices developed by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Additionally, the controls are organized into three categories: basic, foundational, and organizational. Each category provides specific guidelines for implementing the controls. Moreover, the CIS Controls are practical and applicable to all organizations, based on real-world threat intelligence and expert guidance.

    Implementing the CIS Controls can help organizations improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce their risk of cyber attacks.

  4. PCI DSS – The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements for securing payment card data. Credit card companies developed the standard to ensure secure processing of payment card transactions by merchants and service providers.

    PCI DSS covers a broad range of security controls, including network security, access control, and physical security. Compliance with the standard is mandatory for organizations that process payment card transactions, and failure to comply can result in significant fines and reputational damage.

  5. GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation of the European Union that sets out rules for the protection of personal data. The regulation applies to all organizations that process personal data of EU residents, regardless of where the organization is based. The GDPR requires organizations to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure the security of personal data. It also requires organizations to provide individuals with certain rights, such as the right to access their data and the right to have their data erased.
13 most common cyber threat vectors infographic
13 most common cyber threat vectors infographic

How can Autobahn Security help?

At Autobahn Security, we understand the challenges that companies face when it comes to cybersecurity. Additionally, our platform offers a holistic solution that enables companies to not only uncover vulnerabilities but also assess and resolve them effectively. We have developed a unique metric called the Hackability Score that measures how attractive a company is to hacking attacks — from a hacker’s perspective. So, this KPI allows companies to evaluate their vulnerabilities and compare them with others in their peer group.

By providing practical support on how to deal with vulnerabilities, we empower IT teams to improve their security posture on a sustainable basis. Our platform aggregates, filters, and prioritizes vulnerabilities from multiple scanners and turns them into easy-to-understand remediation guides.

By using Autobahn Security, companies can reduce the amount of time and effort they spend on cybersecurity while minimizing risks in the long term. Equipping more IT staff with necessary tools enables companies to minimize long-term risks and reduce cybersecurity hours.

Don’t let fear of hackers hold your company back. By understanding how hackers work and think, companies can better understand their vulnerabilities and the actions they need to take to protect themselves. Autobahn Security is the partner you need to improve your cyber-fitness level on a permanent basis.

Book a demo or start a free trial today and see how Autobahn Security can help improve your company’s cybersecurity.