What Is a Cyberattack?

Cyberattack represented by hooded hacker on computer

Each year, cybercriminals take advantage of vulnerable information systems to wreak havoc on organizations and individuals alike. What’s more, according to Cisco, 53% of cyberattacks result in monetary damages of over $500,000.¹

By 2025, cyberattacks are likely to cost businesses globally a projected $10.5 trillion each year, up from $3 trillion in 2015.² Over the next four years, worldwide cyberattack costs are expected to increase by almost 15% annually.³ Some cybercriminals, however, also launch cyberattacks with ulterior purposes. For instance, they look to destroy systems and information as a form of hacktivism.

But what exactly is a cyberattack, and what are some of the most popular methods to take a proactive stance against them?

Defining a Threat

A cyberattack is any type of activity used to collect, disrupt, deny, or destroy information system resources or damage data. This attack targets a company’s or person’s use of cyberspace to disturb, restrict, harm, or control a computing environment or infrastructure, or to steal the controlled information.

Different Types of Cyberattacks

Let’s take a look at some of the common types of cybercrime.List of different types of cyberattacks

Types of Cyberattacks

  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)

    A DoS attack overwhelms an information system’s resources, so it can’t respond to service requests. Simply put, it inundates the company with traffic to consume its capacity and resources. Consequently, the system is incapable of fulfilling real customer requests.

    In this type of attack, cybercriminals send more traffic than the targeted device can manage, causing it to fail, for example, rendering it incapable of providing a service to users. Some examples of targets include online banking, websites, email, or any other service that relies on a targeted computer or network.

    A DDoS attack also overwhelms a system’s resources. However, it’s launched from multiple compromised devices. Often botnets are used for DDoS attacks. A botnet is a network of Internet-connected devices, each of which runs multiple software applications that perform automated tasks. In such an approach, you can’t stop the attack just by blocking the source of the traffic

  • Malware

    Malware is malicious code or software and includes things like viruses, worms, ransomware, and spyware. Malware usually gets a foothold when a user clicks a risky email attachment or link that then installs dangerous software.

    Once malware penetrates a system, it can install additional damaging software, restrict access to crucial network components until a ransom is paid (ransomware attacks), disrupt certain components and render the system inoperable, or steal information by transmitting data from the hard drive (spyware).

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)

    Also called an eavesdropping attack, a MitM attack occurs when cybercriminals interrupt a transaction between two parties. The objective is to disrupt traffic to filter and steal information.

    For example, when using unsecured public Wi-Fi, cybercriminals can insert themselves between a user’s device and the network. Unknowingly, the user passes all data through the attacker. Another point of entry for attackers is malware that has already breached a device, which they can then use to install additional software to process the victim’s data.

  • Phishing

    Phishing is a type of cyberattack in which an attacker sends false communications that look like they’ve originated from a trustworthy source, typically through email. The objective is to steal confidential information such as credit card and login data or to install malware on the victim’s device.

    Phishing is the most common kind of cyberattack. In 2021, 83% of businesses reported experiencing phishing attacks.⁴ An additional 6 billion attacks are likely to occur in 2022.⁵

    Here’s an example of a phishing attack: A person receives an email that looks like it came from their bank informing them that their online bank account has been compromised and will be disabled unless they verify their credit card information. The link in the email takes the person to a bogus website. When they fill in their credit card details, that information is stolen and used to carry out further crimes.

  • SQL Injection

    SQL injection is when a criminal places malicious code in the SQL statements of a company’s website. As a result, the database of that website might be destroyed.

    An SQL injection attack allows criminals to retrieve the contents of a file, change (insert, update, or delete) data in the database, access confidential information from the database, run administration operations (like shutdown) on the database, and, in some instances, generate commands to the operating system.

    For example, an embedded form on a site may request a person’s account name and then send it to the database to fetch the linked account details via dynamic SQL.

How Does Cybersecurity Relate to Cyberattacks?

Cybersecurity is the practice of safeguarding networks, systems, and programs from cyberattacks. These digital attacks are typically targeted at retrieving, altering, or damaging critical data, extorting money from people, or disturbing normal business processes.

As data breaches, hacking, and cyberattacks reach new heights, corporations increasingly rely on cybersecurity specialists to recognize potential risks and protect valuable information. Therefore, it makes sense that the cybersecurity market will likely expand from $173.5 billion in 2022 to $266.2 billion by 2027, which translates into a CAGR of 8.9% from 2022 to 2027.⁶

Combat Cyberattacks With an Industry-Leading Cybersecurity Program

With cyberattacks quickly advancing, there’s a growing need to fill roles that protect data, network security, applications, and computer systems against cybercrime.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for cybersecurity professionals is expected to increase by 35% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (5%). Also, you can expect to earn a yearly salary of $102,600, with the top 10% earning as much as $165,920.⁷

Take Your Future to the Next Level

The Kenzie Academy from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) program prepares you to become a cybersecurity professional within nine months. Our cybersecurity certificate program will help you become proficient in ethical hacking, network defense, and digital forensics.

Our partnership with the International Council of eCommerce Consultants (EC-Council) allows us to offer a career-oriented, strategic, and accredited cybersecurity certificate that prepares you for a career as a cybercrime analyst, incident and intrusion analyst, help desk technician, cybersecurity specialist, network administrator, IT security specialist, and more. Apply today and start learning!


¹ Cisco, “What Are the Most Common Cyber Attacks?” on the internet, at https://www.cisco.com/c/en_au/products/security/common-cyberattacks.html (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

² Cybercrime Magazine, “Cybercrime To Cost The World $10.5 Trillion Annually By 2025” on the internet, at https://cybersecurityventures.com/cybercrime-damage-costs-10-trillion-by-2025/ (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

³ The National News, “Top 10 Cyber Crime Trends to Watch for in 2022” on the internet, at https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/technology/2021/12/29/top-10-cyber-crime-trends-to-watch-out-for-in-2022/ (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

⁴ NetSec.News, “83% of Businesses Experienced a Successful Phishing Attack in 2021” on the internet, at https://www.netsec.news/83-of-businesses-experienced-a-successful-phishing-attack-in-2021/ (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

⁵ Infosecurity, “Are Phishing Scams Likely to Go Away Anytime Soon?” on the internet, at https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/next-gen-infosec/phishing-scams-go-away-soon/ (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

Markets and Markets, “Cyber Security Market by Component (Software, Hardware, and Services), Software, (IAM, Encryption and Tokenization, and Other Software), Security Type, Deployment Mode, Organization Size, Vertical and Region – Global Forecast to 2027” on the internet, at https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/cyber-security-market-505.html (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

⁷ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-5  (Viewed Dec. 5, 2022)

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