Network-Level Cyberattacks and How to Prevent Them

Digital Threats and Cyberattacks at the Network Level

An enterprise network helps ensure that business workflow is efficient and easy to maintain. However, owing to the complexity and large size of such networks, security threats can enter through interconnected endpoints (Geeks for Geeks, 2021). Once malicious parties gain entry into an organization’s network and internal systems, they can cause serious harm and steal sensitive data.

Types of Network Attacks

Network-level attacks can be either passive or active. In a passive attack, malicious agents gain unauthorized network access and steal sensitive data without altering it. They simply want to use their theft to profit by accessing client accounts or selling information to other bad actors.

An active network attack, in contrast, is a bit more like vandalizing a building. In an active network attack, the attacker gains access to a network and modifies or damages the data stored there—for example, by deleting or encrypting it.

Network-level attacks differ from other types of software- and hardware-related attacks. Malicious hackers executing network attacks often aim to gain access to an organization’s network perimeter and thereby its internal systems.

Once they have this access, they can launch other types of attacks. These digital threats include:

  • Malware attacks. These attacks use malware to infect an organization’s IT resources. The attacker can then compromise the network and systems and damage vital information.
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs). An APT is a sustained, intricate cyberattack that leaves an undetectable presence in a computer network, allowing cybercriminals to steal information and affect computer operations over a long period of time (CrowdStrike, 2021).
  • Vulnerability exploits. These attacks take advantage of vulnerabilities within an organization’s software to gain unauthorized access, which is then used to compromise business systems.
  • Endpoint attacks. These are attacks in which hackers obtain unauthorized access to endpoints within a network. These endpoints may include servers or user devices, which can then be attacked with malware.

Common Forms of Network Attacks

Unauthorized Access

Attackers gain network access without permission from the concerned parties thanks to compromised accounts, weak passwords, and insider threats.

Malware

Perpetrators can corrupt network data and system files via malicious software known as malware (Geeks for Geeks, 2021). Several common types of malware include:

  • Computer viruses. This malware spreads quickly between computer devices. Computer viruses can be brought into a network system via email downloads or website downloads. Once inside, the malware quickly moves to steal vital data or harm the network.
  • Computer worms. This malicious software moves from computer to computer in a network, quickly replicating as infected files are shared.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is malware that infects a network and prevents users from accessing files until a ransom is paid to the hackers.

Phishing

Phishing is an email method used to trick internet users into revealing personal and financial data (Federal Trade Commission, 2019). These phishing emails usually claim to come from a legitimate source and ask for private information. Unwary users may provide their social security numbers, bank account numbers, and other sensitive information.

OnPath Attacks

In an OnPath network attack (also known as a “man-in-the-middle” attack), a malicious party attempts to intercept a private dialogue to direct the theft of sensitive information (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2020). These tactics allow hackers to gain access to important files.

SQL Injection

Poorly designed websites are prone to SQL injection attacks. This tactic allows bad actors to change queries to a database. In this way, hackers can corrupt applications so that they harm a target network.

Denial of Service

Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks attempt to cause a website to crash due to a malicious and unwarranted overload of traffic, thereby denying access to legitimate users.

Other types of network attacks include browser-based attacks, such as cross-site scripting, and password-spraying attacks, which use brute-force techniques to gain account access (Ranjan, 2021).

How to Protect Your Network

  • Always use strong passwords and change them often for additional security.
  • Use internal IP addresses instead of those assigned to free public networks.
  • Set up a firewall to block malicious attacks.
  • Encrypt sensitive personal data into ciphertext readable only by authorized users.
  • Install antivirus software on all network devices to protect against computer worms, viruses, and other digital threats.
  • Mark all suspicious attachments and emails as spam. Don’t open these attachments if you’re at all unsure of their origins.
  • Use an encrypted connection instead of vulnerable networks like Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Set up a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your internet activity.
  • Ensure that employees are regularly trained on the various types of network attacks and what can be done to prevent them.
  • Utilize deception technology to place decoys throughout your network. These decoys will provoke attacks and allow you to closely observe hackers’ techniques.

Interested in Learning More About Network Security?

EC-Council’s Certified Network Defender (C|ND) covers the intricacies of secure networking practices within IT infrastructures. The C|ND certification program teaches network administrators and other cybersecurity professionals how to defend an organization’s networks against sophisticated cyberattacks.

While network-level attacks are on the rise, techniques for preventing and handling these attacks are also improving rapidly. With the C|ND certification, you’ll gain a strong understanding of network operations, automated software, data transfer, and more. Contact EC-Council today to learn more about getting certified.

References

CrowdStrike. (2021, April 1). What is an advanced persistent threat (APT)? Cybersecurity 101. https://www.crowdstrike.com/cybersecurity-101/advanced-persistent-threat-apt/

Federal Trade Commission. (2019). How to recognize and avoid phishing scams. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams

GeeksforGeeks. (2021, July 27). Basic network attacks in computer network. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/basic-network-attacks-in-computer-network/

National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2020). Man-in-the-middle attack. Information Technology Laboratory Computer Security Resource Center. https://csrc.nist.gov/glossary/term/man_in_the_middle_attack

Ranjan, R. (2021). Password spraying attack. OWASP Foundation. https://owasp.org/www-community/attacks/Password_Spraying_Attack

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