Glossary

Cyber Attack Vector

What is an attack vector?

We’ll start with a biology lesson.

Vectors are small organisms such as mosquitoes, parasites, or ticks that carry disease between humans, or from animals to humans.

Moving on to Computer Science

The cyber dictionary has adopted the concept of biological disease vectors to describe a method a cyber attacker uses to exploit and infect a target.

In cyber security, attack vectors are techniques a hacker uses to penetrate a target system with malicious intent. Attack vectors include malware, ransomware, and vulnerability exploits. Vectors also include human and psychological factors like deception, implicit trust, and social engineering. An attack vector is usually a multistep process and combines a path of entry into the target system with a malicious payload to achieve the purpose of the attack.

Cyber Attack Vector

Who Uses Cyber Attack Vectors?

Cybercriminals and hackers all use attack vectors but vary in their objectives, rigor, and expertise. 

  • Script kiddies

The least severe of them all are script kiddies, unprofessional people, sometimes pranksters, who use ready-made attacks to gain hacking experience, to be challenged, or for fun. 

  • Hacktivists

Hacktivists are motivated by ideology or ideals.  They use cyber attacks to draw attention to their cause.

  • Corporate Attackers

Organizations sometimes breach or attack a competitor to gain a competitive advantage, learn their secrets, or steal intellectual property.

  • Organized Crime Rings

Cybercriminals in this category are usually motivated by money. Ransomware is the most common attack vector they use to extort money from their victims.

  • Nation-states

Politically motivated, this powerful group has a lot at stake. Enormous resources and skills are invested in these attackers and they are capable of destroying government systems. These actors often use APTs (advanced persistent threats) to stealthily infiltrate and breach their enemies over a long period before the final payload is delivered.

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What is the purpose of Attack Vectors?

Cyber security attack vectors are always designed to damage a system, but their objectives vary.

  • Financial Gain
    • Ransomware
    • Sell private consumer data
    • Gain valuable corporate data
    • Mine Cryptocurrency
    • Insurance or credit card fraud
  • Corporate Disruption and Revenge
    • Competitors bent on damaging a company’s reputation
    • Insider threats, for example, a disgruntled employee
    • A form of ideological protest, such as terror-related attacks
  • Cyberwarfare
    • Political disputes between nation-states
    • Espionage
    • Propaganda
    • The general disruption of enemy institutions, such as DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks

Common Attack Vectors

Commonly used cyber threat vectors used in attacks:

  • Malware
    • Ransomware
    • Viruses
    • Worms
    • Spyware
    • Trojans
  • Social engineering methods
    • Phishing
    • Deception
  • Password brute-forcing

to gain entry to a remote system

  • Botnets

Botnets are used to establish command and control centers that carry out DDoS attacks.

  • Vulnerability exploits
    • SQL injection
    • Cross-site scripting
    • Buffer overflow

Common Vectors on a Victim’s network that Enable an Attack

  • Weak encryption

When malicious actors detect weak algorithms or insufficient encryption, they can revert encrypted code or sensitive data to its original unencrypted form. This vulnerability will result in the unauthorized retrieval of sensitive information from the victim.

  • Misconfigurations 

Usually, misconfigurations are a sign of non-compliance with industry security standards. Staying up-to-date with compliance regulations will ensure the proper configuration of a network. Misconfigurations are easy flaws for attackers to spot.

  • Unpatched applications

Patch management tools scan for vulnerable components, outdated programs, and missing patches, automating the patching process. Many well-known cyber attacks are exploits of known vulnerabilities that a company could easily have avoided with better patch management.

  • Third-party vendors

Third-party vendor assessment and acute visibility into your supply chain will enable a culture of security throughout your supply chain ecosystem.

  • Cloud service providers

Cloud-based applications remain high on the list of the most popular attack vectors for cyber actors. Poor configurations allow for data theft, breach, and even cryptojacking.

  • Weak security credentials

Incorrectly applied access control rules and allow unauthorized users access to sensitive data or system processes.

  • Weak passwords

Multi-factor authorization, password management tools, and frequently changing passwords are methods of combating password-based attacks. However,  the ultimate security option for MFA seems to be hardware tokens. With a token system, malicious actors cannot easily uncover corporate log-in credentials.

  • Lack of cyber awareness

Cybersecurity training and education are great ways to minimize network attack vectors. A well-educated team is less likely to allow attackers in.

Bottom Line

To protect a system from unauthorized intrusion, security teams will analyze the entire attack surface. The attack surface is the totality of a system’s attack vectors. Attack vectors must be evaluated to determine the likelihood and the impact of their exploitation. Equipped with the knowledge of relevant attack vectors and the risks they pose, security teams can focus on eliminating these potential threats. 

Centraleyes has powerful vulnerability scanners that inspect your network and third-party vendors for security flaws and attack vectors. Up-to-date with the latest industry-mandated compliance regulations and built with a fantastic risk management solution, Centraleyes’s user-friendly platform will equip you with the tools you need to eliminate attack vectors that pose a risk to your business.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

Want to talk to Centraleyes about Cyber Attack Vector?

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