Your Guide to The Basics of Attack Vectors

  • An attack vector is a means by which malicious actors can gain access to a system or network to perform malicious activities.
  • Understanding attack vectors and finding ways to secure them is important to defend against cyber attacks.

Before we delve into the details, let’s understand the difference between the attack vector and attack surface.

While an attack vector refers to a way through which malicious actors can gain access to a system or network, the attack surface refers to the sum of all potential attack vectors that malicious actors can use to compromise a system or network.

Common attack vector types

The common attack vector types that attackers exploit include the following.

  • Vulnerabilities that are unintended flaws in software programs can be leveraged by attackers to perform malicious activities.
  • Misconfiguration of databases and servers can result in personal or sensitive data being exposed.
  • Weak encryption can lead to the compromise of credentials, sensitive, or financial data.
  • Attackers use phishing, a social engineering technique that plays on human emotions, to trick targets into revealing sensitive information or providing attacks with access to systems and networks.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) bombards the network with traffic in order to disrupt normal functioning.
  • Use of compromised or weak credentials can allow attackers an entry into the system. This can be relatively more harmful if the credentials belong to admins or those with higher levels of permissions than users.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks involve bad actors eavesdropping on internet communication between two parties and potentially altering the transferred information.
  • Third-party vendors whose systems can be breached to gain access to the systems of the targeted organization.
  • Different types of malware can be introduced in the system to steal information or take control over target systems.

Exploiting attack vectors

There are two major ways to exploit attack vectors—active and passive.

Active attacks intend to alter or affect the operation of system resources. Examples include ransomware infections, email spoofing, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Passive attacks involve accessing systems for information and not altering the resources in any way. Examples include social engineering techniques such as phishing.