Common Types of Cyber Attacks

  • By Bree Ann Russ
  • Published: Jul 13, 2022
  • Last Updated: Jul 18, 2022

common types of cyber attacks

The internet has grown significantly over the past 20 years and continues to grow at an accelerated rate. The cyber threat landscape continues to grow as more people and businesses invest in digital services. There are many types of cyber attacks that cyber attackers use to try to gain access to your data or devices or even try to take control of them.

There are also several red flags that you should watch out for if you suspect that a cyber attack is targeting you. Keeping informed about the latest threats, staying updated on security best practices, and regularly updating software can all help protect against different types of cyber security attacks. While there are many different ways a cyber attack can occur, some common types of attacks occur most often.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

A denial of service attack, or DDoS attack for short, is when someone sends a large amount of traffic to a computer network or website that exceeds the expected capacity for that network. The influx of traffic leads to the inability to access services for many users or can cause the website or network to crash. It is a common cyber attack. DDoS attacks can happen to any type of computer network, including websites, banks, electrical grids, and government services.

There are two main types of DDoS attacks: The first type is when the cyber attacker has an extensive network of computers under their control (a botnet), and they use those computers to send a large amount of traffic to a single website or network.

DDoS attacks can also happen when a cyber attacker uses a command and control (C&C) server to send a large amount of illegitimate traffic from many computers they don't control.

DDoS attacks often have malicious intent, such as to extort money from organizations or companies, gain publicity, or try to silence organizations or individuals from speaking out.


Some cyber attackers will attempt to gain access to a network and then demand a ransom payment in exchange for the stolen data. Ransomware is a type of malicious software (or malware) that can infect a computer or network and block or prevent users from accessing their data.

Ransomware attacks have risen over the past few years and have become increasingly sophisticated as time goes on. Ransomware typically gets onto your computer through a malicious email attachment or link or by you clicking on a malicious advertisement online.

When you click on the attachment or link, the ransomware gets downloaded onto your computer and attempts to lock up your data and make it inaccessible. Ransomware can be challenging to remove, and if it's not removed within a certain amount of time, it can permanently lock you out of your data.

Data Breach

A data breach occurs when someone steals, hacks, or improperly accesses sensitive data. Data breaches often occur when organizations don’t have proper security measures in place to protect their data.

The most common types of data breaches occur when hackers gain access to computer systems and networks through malware, backdoors, and vulnerabilities in software. In some cases, there is malicious intent behind the data breach. However, in other cases, the breach is accidental.

Data breaches often lead to identity theft and financial fraud, so it's essential to be aware of potential signs of a breach. These can include:

  • Locked accounts
  • Changing file locations or names
  • Unusual activity
  • New files or software
  • Significantly slowed networks
  • Extraordinary amounts of traffic (in or out)
  • Devices that have damage or noticeable signs of tampering


Hacking is the act of controlling a computer without authorization. Hackers can gain access to computer systems by exploiting vulnerabilities, installing malicious software, tricking people into giving them their login credentials, and more. Many people fall victim to hacking by clicking on a seemingly familiar link that does not go where they believe it will go.

Hackers may use the computers they gain access to for malicious purposes, like stealing data, sending spam and phishing emails, distributing viruses, and other unsavory acts. Hackers commonly target large organizations, especially ones with lots of sensitive data, like banks, hospitals, and government agencies.

To avoid being hacked, make sure you regularly update your software and install patches as they become available, keep an eye on your system for suspicious activity, and be extra cautious when clicking on links or attachments from emails.


Phishing is a type of social engineering where cyber attackers attempt to trick people into providing sensitive information, like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal data. They do this by pretending to represent a trusted organization.

Phishing happens when a cyber attacker sends an email (or texts you) that looks like it's from a company like your bank, your internet service provider, or your phone company. Phishing emails are often compelling, so it can be difficult to tell that they're not actually from the organization they say they're from.

These emails often contain links to websites that look like they’re from a trusted company but lead users to another site that the cyber attacker controls. Phishing emails are usually easy to spot if you're aware of the latest phishing scams and regularly update your software. Some of the more common phishing examples include:

  • Emails saying you must log into your account from a specific link to prove you are who you claim to be
  • Any email asking you to respond with your username and password to a website
  • Texts or posts claiming you won money, a prize, or have someone trying to reach you to give you something

Proactivity and Education Can Help Keep You Safe

Cyber attacks are on the rise, and everyone needs to be aware of the latest threats and how to protect against them. While there are many different types of cyber attacks, there are also ways to help reduce your risk of being targeted, such as using identity protection services.

It's essential to keep informed about new threats, stay updated on security best practices, and regularly update your software to protect against different types of cyber attacks. The more you know, the safer you can remain.

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