Cyber Attack Definition & Meaning

A cyber attack is the unauthorized access of private or confidential information contained on a computer system or network. It targets computer information systems, infrastructures, or other personal devices and can be used to serve as a launch point for other attacks. A cybercriminal can launch a cyber attack to steal, alter, or destroy a specific target by hacking into a susceptible system.

Cyber attacks can be active or passive. An active attack is a blatant attack that a victim is immediately aware of. It is highly malicious and can include locking out users, destroying files, or aggressively gaining access to a network. Examples of an active cyber attack are viruses, worms, and malware. A passive attack uses covert methods so that the victim does not know the attack is happening the goal being to remain undetected. Examples of a passive attack include data scraping, network surveillance, and keylogging. On corporate networks, and advanced persistent threat is a particularly dangerous attack because of the opportunity to steal sensitive data.

Cyber attack types

Cybercriminals use a number of technical methods to gain access to or disable operations. While new methods are always emerging, there are methods that are common in the cyber world. Types of attacks include:

  • Malware: Any type of malicious software.
  • Phishing: A technique used to fool an email recipient into taking a harmful action, such as downloading malware that is disguised as an important document. Social engineering is another term for fooling users into giving away sensitive information.
  • Ransomware: A form of malware that encrypts a victim’s files. The attacker then demands a ransom from the victim to restore access to the data upon payment.
  • Man in the middle: An attack where a hacker attempts to intercept, read, or alter information between a user and a web service.
  • Denial of service: An attack designed to stop an online service from working properly by flooding it with useless traffic.
  • Evil twin attack: Pretends to be a legitimate network to intercept traffic from users.

How to prevent a cyber attack

With sensitive data increasingly being stored online, the need for cybersecurity is critical. Reduce the risk of a cyber attack by training employees in cyber security principles, installing and regularly updating antivirus and antispyware software, and using a firewall for the Internet connection. In addition, make backup copies of important business data, make sure WiFi access is secure, and regularly change passwords.






Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes is a writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com, where she covers technology trends and enterprise and SMB project management platforms. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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