Cybersecurity Threats: Everything you Need to Know

The landscape of cybersecurity threats is continually expanding, with an increase in frequency, diversity, and sophistication. Acquire a concise and current overview of 21 cybersecurity threats within our comprehensive series of guides. Explore the means to gather essential information for preventing data breaches and fortifying your information security protocols. Stay informed and resilient in the face of evolving cyber threats through our in-depth resources on cybersecurity.

Understanding information security threats is paramount in safeguarding against the escalating risk of cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity threats represent intentional and malicious endeavors by organizations or individuals to breach the systems of others, driven by motives ranging from information theft and financial gain to espionage and sabotage.

Given the exponential growth of cyberthreats, preparing for every conceivable scenario becomes impractical. To aid in prioritizing cybersecurity efforts, MITRE has developed the Threat Assessment and Remediation Analysis (TARA), incorporating a meticulous analysis of Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP).

When modeling cybersecurity threats, it is essential to apply the same risk calculation as employed in project and program management:


Assessing the likelihood involves gauging the ease with which attackers can execute an attack. This evaluation extends to factors like the skill level required, as indicated by the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) rankings provided by vendors upon disclosing vulnerabilities. Consideration must be given to whether skilled adversaries are necessary or if there is a low barrier for entry, such as through readily available tools or downloads. Equally critical is the evaluation of the organization's ability to detect and mitigate the threat.

In tandem, evaluating the impact of a threat involves assessing the sensitivity of affected systems, the value and sensitivity of potentially compromised data, and the overall financial and reputational repercussions of an attack.

By combining the assessments of likelihood and impact, organizations can pinpoint and address cybersecurity threats that hold significant relevance to their specific circumstances, thereby ensuring a robust level of protection.

What are the main types of cybersecurity threats?

The main types of information security threats are:

We cover each of these threats in more detail below.

1. Malware Attack

In the realm of cybersecurity, malware attacks employ diverse methods to infiltrate a user's device, frequently leveraging social engineering tactics. Users may be manipulated into taking actions such as clicking on links or opening attachments. Additionally, malware exploits vulnerabilities in browsers or operating systems to install itself discreetly without the user's knowledge or consent.

Once installed, malware can execute various malicious activities, including monitoring user actions, transmitting confidential data to attackers, aiding in the penetration of other network targets, and even coercing the user's device to participate in a botnet orchestrated for malicious purposes.

Noteworthy types of malware attacks encompass:

  • Trojan Virus: Deceptively presented as harmless files, Trojans trick users and can launch attacks on systems, establishing backdoors for potential exploitation.

  • Ransomware: Restricts access to a victim's data, threatening deletion or exposure unless a ransom is paid. Refer to our comprehensive guide on ransomware prevention for further insights.

  • Wiper Malware: Intends to obliterate data or systems by overwriting targeted files or destroying entire file systems. Often deployed to convey a political message or conceal hacker activities post-data exfiltration.

  • Worms: Designed to exploit backdoors and vulnerabilities, worms gain unauthorized access to operating systems. Post-installation, worms can execute diverse attacks, including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS).

  • Spyware: Enables unauthorized access to sensitive data, including payment details and credentials, affecting mobile phones, desktop applications, and browsers.

  • Fileless Malware: Operating without traditional software installation, this malware manipulates native files like PowerShell and WMI to execute malicious functions, making detection challenging.

  • Application or Website Manipulation: As outlined by OWASP's top 10 application security risks, manipulation involves various threats ranging from broken access controls to injection attacks, potentially leading to further malware, credential, or APT attacks.

2. Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks employ psychological manipulation to induce users into performing actions favorable to attackers or disclosing sensitive information. Notable techniques include:

  • Phishing: Attackers employ fraudulent correspondence, often via email, masquerading as legitimate sources to trick users into performing actions or divulging sensitive information.

  • Spear Phishing: A targeted variant focusing on individuals with security privileges or influence, such as system administrators or senior executives.

  • Malvertising: Online advertising controlled by hackers containing malicious code, infecting users' computers upon interaction.

  • Drive-by Downloads: Exploiting website vulnerabilities to install malware directly on users' computers or redirecting them to malicious sites.

  • Scareware: Pretends to scan for malware, showing users fake warnings and detections to coerce payment for fake threat removal.

  • Baiting: Involves tricking targets into using a malicious device, such as a USB, leading to unintentional malware installation.

  • Vishing: Voice phishing attacks leverage social engineering techniques to extract financial or personal information over the phone.

  • Whaling: Targets high-profile employees, attempting to trick them into disclosing confidential information.

  • Pretexting: Involves lying to targets to gain access to privileged data by pretending to confirm their identity.

  • Scareware: Tricks victims into downloading and installing malware under the false pretense of illegal content or infected computers.

  • Diversion Theft: Utilizes social engineers to mislead courier companies, intercepting transactions through misinformation.

  • Honey Trap: Involves assuming a fake identity to engage targets online, gathering sensitive information through a fabricated relationship.

  • Tailgating or Piggybacking: Occurs when a threat actor gains access to secured buildings by following authorized personnel.

  • Pharming: A fraudulent scheme involving the installation of malicious code, directing users to fake websites to extract personal data.

    3. Software Supply Chain Attacks

    A software supply chain attack represents a targeted cyber assault against an organization, focusing on vulnerabilities within its trusted software update and supply chain. The supply chain encompasses a complex network involving individuals, organizations, resources, activities, and technologies responsible for the creation and sale of products. In the context of software supply chain attacks, the exploitation of trust in third-party vendors, particularly during updates and patching, is a prevalent tactic.

    This vulnerability is particularly pronounced in network monitoring tools, industrial control systems, "smart" machines, and other network-enabled systems equipped with service accounts. Software supply chain attacks can manifest at various points in the vendor's continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) software lifecycle, and may even target third-party libraries and components, as evidenced by incidents involving Apache and Spring.

    Key types of software supply chain attacks include:

    • Compromise of Software Build Tools or Dev/Test Infrastructure: Exploiting weaknesses in the tools or infrastructure used in the software development and testing processes.

    • Compromise of Devices or Accounts Owned by Privileged Third-Party Vendors: Targeting devices or accounts associated with third-party vendors who possess elevated privileges within the supply chain.

    • Malicious Apps Signed with Stolen Code Signing Certificates or Developer IDs: Deploying apps with malicious intent, authenticated using stolen code signing certificates or developer IDs.

    • Malicious Code Deployed on Hardware or Firmware Components: Targeting the hardware or firmware elements of devices by deploying malicious code.

    • Malware Pre-installed on Devices (e.g., Cameras, USBs, Mobile Phones): Covertly installing malware on various devices, including cameras, USB drives, and mobile phones.

    4. Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)

    Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) denote sophisticated cyber intrusions where an individual or group gains unauthorized access to a network, maintaining undetected presence for an extended period. Typically orchestrated against high-value targets such as nation-states, large corporations, or entities with significant assets, APTs require considerable effort and expertise.

    Indicators of an APT presence encompass:

    • New Account Creation: APTs often involve the creation of new identities or credentials on the network, usually with elevated privileges.

    • Abnormal Activity: Detection of irregular patterns in legitimate user account activities, including sudden and unexpected account activation after prolonged inactivity.

    • Backdoor/Trojan Horse Malware: Extensive use of these tactics allows APTs to maintain prolonged access while avoiding detection.

    • Odd Database Activity: Unusual spikes in database operations, particularly involving massive amounts of data, may indicate APT involvement.

    • Unusual Data Files: The presence of anomalous data files suggests bundling for exfiltration, signifying an ongoing APT-driven data compromise.

      5. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

      The primary goal of a denial of service (DoS) attack is to inundate a target system's resources, rendering it non-functional and denying access to its users. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) represents a refined variant of DoS, wherein attackers compromise a multitude of computers or devices, orchestrating a coordinated assault against the designated target system.

      DDoS attacks are frequently employed in conjunction with other cyber threats. These attacks may serve as a diversion, capturing the attention of security staff and creating confusion, while more covert attacks are executed with the aim of data theft or causing additional damage.

      Various methods employed in DDoS attacks include:

      • Botnets: Hacker-controlled systems infected with malware, used to carry out DDoS attacks. Large-scale botnets, comprising millions of devices, can execute attacks on a devastating scale.

      • Smurf Attack: Involves sending ICMP echo requests to the victim's IP address, generated from 'spoofed' IP addresses. Automated at scale, this attack overwhelms the target system.

      • TCP SYN Flood Attack: Floods the target system with connection requests, causing it to time out when attempting to complete the connection. This fills the connection queue rapidly, preventing legitimate users from connecting.

      6. Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MitM)

      In a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack, the conventional assumption that users or devices are directly communicating with the server of the target system over the internet is disrupted. Attackers position themselves between the user and the target server, intercepting communications and potentially compromising user credentials, stealing sensitive data, and manipulating responses to the user.

      MitM attacks encompass various techniques, including:

      • Session Hijacking: Attackers hijack a session between a network server and a client, substituting their IP address for that of the client. The server, unaware of the manipulation, continues the session.

      • Replay Attack: Cybercriminals eavesdrop on network communication, replaying messages at a later time to impersonate the user. Timestamps have been incorporated to mitigate such attacks.

      • IP Spoofing: Attackers convince a system that it is interacting with a trusted entity, gaining unauthorized access by forging packets with the IP source address of a trusted host.

      • Eavesdropping Attack: Exploiting insecure network communication, attackers access information transmitted between the client and server, often escaping detection due to the appearance of normal network transmissions.

      • Bluetooth Attacks: Exploiting the often-open nature of Bluetooth in promiscuous mode, attackers deploy various attacks, particularly against phones, to disseminate contact cards and malware through open Bluetooth connections. Such compromises serve diverse purposes, from credential harvesting to obtaining personal information.

      7. Password Attacks

      Unauthorized access to an individual's password information can be achieved through various means, such as 'sniffing' network connections, social engineering, guessing, or infiltrating password databases. Attackers employ methods like brute-force guessing, dictionary attacks, pass-the-hash attacks, and golden ticket attacks to compromise password security.

      Password Attacks:

      • Brute-Force Password Guessing: Attackers utilize software to systematically attempt numerous passwords, often employing logic related to the individual's name, occupation, family, etc.

      • Dictionary Attack: A dictionary of common passwords is leveraged to gain access, involving the encryption of a file containing passwords and a subsequent comparison with an encrypted dictionary.

      • Pass-the-Hash Attack: In this attack, the authentication protocol is exploited to capture a password hash, which is then used for authentication and lateral access to other networked systems. Decryption of the hash is unnecessary for obtaining the plain text password.

      • Golden Ticket Attack: Originating from a pass-the-hash approach on a Kerberos (Windows AD) system, the attacker uses the stolen password hash to access the key distribution center, forging a ticket-granting-ticket (TGT) hash. This method is frequently employed in Mimikatz attacks.

      Cyberthreat Actors:

      Understanding the identity of threat actors, along with their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), is crucial in responding to cyberthreats. Common sources of cyberthreats encompass:

      • State-Sponsored: Nations may execute cyberattacks to disrupt communications, military operations, or daily services used by citizens.

      • Terrorists: Terrorist groups may target government, military, or civilian websites to cause disruptions and lasting damage.

      • Industrial Spies: Organized crime and international corporate spies engage in industrial espionage and monetary theft, primarily driven by financial motives.

      • Organized Crime Groups: Criminal organizations infiltrate systems for monetary gain, employing tactics like phishing, spam, and malware for identity theft and online fraud. Some groups provide hacking services for profit or espionage purposes.

      • Hackers: A diverse global population of hackers exists, ranging from novice "script kiddies" to sophisticated operators capable of developing new threats and circumventing organizational defenses.

      • Hacktivists: Hacktivists disrupt systems for political or ideological reasons rather than financial gain.

      • Malicious Insider: Insiders with existing access to corporate systems pose a serious threat, utilizing their knowledge for devastating attacks that are challenging to detect.

      • Cyber Espionage: A form of cyberattack focused on stealing classified or sensitive intellectual data to gain a competitive advantage over companies or government entities.

Emerging Information Security Threats and Challenges in 2023

As technology advances, the landscape of cybersecurity is continually evolving, presenting security teams with new challenges and emerging threats. Here are some of the prominent trends and concerns in cybersecurity today:

1. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by Attackers

AI stands as a dual-purpose tool in the realm of cybersecurity. While it enhances security solutions, attackers are leveraging AI to circumvent these very defenses. The accessibility of AI has played a pivotal role in this dynamic. Previously confined to significant budgets and resources, the development of machine learning models has become feasible even on personal laptops.

This newfound accessibility has democratized AI, transitioning it from major digital arms races to commonplace attacks. Security teams employ AI to detect suspicious behavior, but cybercriminals are deploying it to create bots indistinguishable from human users and dynamically alter malware characteristics and behaviors.

2. Cybersecurity Skills Gap

A persistent concern revolves around the cybersecurity skills gap, where the demand for experts far exceeds the available talent pool. As the number of companies grows and existing organizations update their security strategies, the gap widens. Modern threats, including cloned identities and deep fake campaigns, pose challenges that extend beyond tool implementation and encryption configuration.

Addressing these threats requires diverse expertise encompassing various technologies, configurations, and environments. Organizations must either recruit high-level experts or invest resources in training their personnel to bridge this skills gap effectively.

3. Vehicle Hacking and Internet of Things (IoT) Threats

Modern vehicles, even those without autonomous capabilities, are repositories of extensive data. Packed with smart sensors, GPS devices, communications platforms, cameras, and AI controllers, they represent potential targets for cyber threats. Similar concerns extend to the broader realm of IoT, where homes, workplaces, and communities are replete with smart devices, such as personal assistants embedded in speakers.

The wealth of data stored in these devices offers a trove of sensitive information that can be exploited by criminals for various purposes, including blackmail or financial gain. In the context of vehicles, the potential for personal harm is tangible, especially as vehicles become more computer-controlled. Attackers could manipulate vehicles, turning them into weapons or compromising the safety of drivers and passengers. Addressing these threats necessitates a comprehensive approach to securing the interconnected world of IoT and ensuring the safety of both data and individuals.

Threats Facing Mobile Devices

In an era where smart technologies are prevalent, mobile devices, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets, have become ubiquitous even among those not fully embracing smart technologies. These multipurpose devices, serving both work and personal activities, often connect to multiple networks throughout the day, making them prime targets for attackers. The challenge lies in security teams lacking complete control over these devices, especially with the common adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, which frequently lack internal control or management components.

Security teams typically exert control within the network perimeter, facing challenges when dealing with out-of-date devices, existing malware infections, or inadequate protections. Blocking connectivity as a response is often impractical, highlighting the need for more nuanced and adaptive security measures to safeguard mobile devices effectively.

Cloud Security Threats

As businesses increasingly migrate to cloud resources, the complexity of environments grows, particularly in the case of hybrid and multi-cloud setups that demand extensive monitoring and integration. With each addition of a cloud service, the number of endpoints and opportunities for misconfiguration rises. Since cloud resources are typically Internet-facing, the global accessibility of these endpoints opens the door for potential attackers.

Securing cloud environments requires advanced, centralized tooling and additional resources, including 24/7 protection and monitoring. The persistent and potentially vulnerable nature of cloud resources beyond traditional work hours necessitates a robust security posture to counteract evolving and sophisticated threats.

State-Sponsored Attacks

The geopolitical landscape, particularly influenced by events like the Russia-Ukraine war, has elevated the stakes of state-sponsored attacks against Western nations and organizations. With the world increasingly shifting to the digital realm, large-scale state-sponsored attacks are on the rise. Networks of hackers can be harnessed and employed by opposing nation-states and interest groups to disrupt governmental and organizational systems.

Some attacks, such as those tampering with elections, may be readily apparent, while others operate discreetly, quietly extracting sensitive information like military strategies or business intelligence. The resources funding these attacks enable criminals to employ advanced and distributed strategies, making detection and prevention challenging. The escalating sophistication of state-sponsored attacks demands comprehensive cybersecurity measures to safeguard critical systems and information.

Using Threat Intelligence for Threat Prevention

Threat intelligence serves as organized, pre-analyzed information about potential attacks that may pose a threat to an organization. It empowers organizations to comprehend and anticipate cyber threats by providing insights into threat actors, their capabilities, infrastructure, and motives. The utilization of threat intelligence systems, often in conjunction with other security tools, allows security teams to swiftly identify and respond to threats.

Threat Intelligence Implementation:

  • Cross-Referencing with Security Tools: Threat intelligence systems seamlessly integrate with existing security tools. When a security system identifies a threat, it can cross-reference it with threat intelligence data to gain immediate insights into the nature and severity of the threat. Known mitigation methods can be applied promptly.

  • Automatic Threat Blocking: Threat intelligence aids in automatic threat blocking. For instance, known malicious IP addresses can be fed to a firewall, automatically preventing traffic from compromised servers.

  • Feeds and Platforms: Threat intelligence is often provided through feeds, ranging from free feeds to those offered by commercial security research bodies. Numerous vendors supply threat intelligence platforms that include various threat feeds and facilitate the management and integration of threat data with other security systems.

Using UEBA and SOAR to Mitigate Information Security Threats

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) and Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) technologies enhance the efficacy and efficiency of security teams by aggregating threat activity data and automating related processes.

UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics):

  • Baseline Construction with Machine Learning: UEBA employs machine learning to establish a baseline of normal behavior for users or entities within a network. Deviations from this baseline are identified and assigned risk scores, enabling the assessment of potential threats.

  • Extended Threat Detection: Unlike Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), UEBA solutions detect threat activity over an extended period across multiple organizational systems. This allows security teams to efficiently narrow down the threats that require investigation.

  • Insider Threat Identification: UEBA assists in identifying various insider threats, such as malicious insiders or compromised insiders. By comparing user and device behavior to baselines, UEBA can detect abnormal activities that traditional tools may miss.

Use Cases of UEBA:

  • Malicious Insiders: UEBA can detect abnormal activities, helping interpret the intent of users with genuine access privileges who exhibit unusual behavior.

  • Compromised Insiders: In cases where users with access privileges are compromised, UEBA can identify changes in credentials, IP addresses, or device usage that may indicate an attack.

  • Data Exfiltration: UEBA, coupled with tools like Data Loss Prevention (DLP), swiftly investigates and alerts on anomalous activities related to sensitive data exfiltration, including uploads, remote logins, database activities, cloud access, and file share access.

  • Lateral Movement: UEBA tools enrich data with context, enabling the detection of lateral movement as attackers traverse the network using different IP addresses, credentials, and machines in search of critical assets and data.

UEBA's Advanced Capabilities

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) extends its capabilities beyond threat detection to incident prioritization and the monitoring of large numbers of devices. These functionalities enhance the overall effectiveness of security operations.

Incident Prioritization with UEBA:

  • Contextual Evaluation: UEBA aids in incident prioritization by evaluating events within the organizational context and assessing their potential for harm. This enables security teams to focus on the most suspicious or dangerous incidents first.

Monitoring Large Numbers of Devices with UEBA:

  • Heuristic Methods: UEBA is versatile and can monitor large numbers of devices even before a baseline for normal behavior is established. This is achieved through heuristic methods such as supervised machine learning, Bayesian networks, unsupervised learning, reinforced machine learning, and deep learning.

SOAR for Comprehensive Incident Management

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) tools complement UEBA by collecting data, facilitating incident analysis, defining threat response workflows, and enabling automated incident response.

SOAR Integration and Benefits:

  • Integration with Security Solutions: SOAR tools seamlessly integrate with various security solutions, enabling security teams to respond more effectively to incidents. This integration occurs through a generic interface, eliminating the need for specialized analysts for each system.

  • Automation of Incident Response: SOAR enables the automation of incident response, allowing security teams to enforce and track status or auditing tasks based on predefined decision-making workflows. This streamlines the incident response process and reduces manual intervention.

  • Incident Management and Collaboration: SOAR tools simplify incident management by automatically generating incidents, providing relevant contextual information, and offering a timeline of events for analysis. They facilitate collaboration by accepting documentation of threats, responses, and outcomes, aiding in effective case management.

UEBA and SOAR Synergy:

  • Effective Investigation Tool: A comprehensive UEBA solution, when integrated with SOAR, serves as a powerful investigation tool. The synergy between UEBA and SOAR accelerates the detection of threats and enhances the efficiency of incident response in Security Operations Centers (SOCs).

  • Reducing Response Time: The ultimate goal for SOC analysts is to minimize the time required to detect threats and respond to incidents. The combined capabilities of UEBA and SOAR contribute to achieving this objective by providing advanced insights, automating response actions, and facilitating streamlined incident management.

SOAR Tools for Proactive Incident Response:

  • Comprehensive Evidence Gathering: SOAR tools proactively enforce processes for gathering comprehensive evidence during incident response.

  • Integration with Third-Party Services: SOAR seamlessly integrates with various third-party services and security vendors, expanding the scope of incident response capabilities.

  • Timeline of Events: Associating a timeline of events is a crucial feature of SOAR tools, aiding in pinpointing anomalous behavior and ensuring a holistic understanding of the incident context.