14 January 2020

#Cyber myths we always hear and the 10 most common cyber attack

#Cyber myths we always hear and the 10 most common cyber attack

My business is too small to be hit, Anti-virus will protect me, We’re ok we use strong passwords, I use my own device which is safe, Our IT department has it covered. But in today’s world where there is an estimated 65,000 attempted cyber attacks every day (2018) then making sure your business is protected should be your highest priority. But with any good defence understanding is the key.

Today I’ll describe the 10 most common cyber attack types to give your company a fighting chance in a cyber world:

A cyber attack is any offensive action that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks or personal computer devices. Utilizing different strategies to take, change or destroy information or data frameworks.

1. Phishing and spear phishing attacks

Phishing attack is the practice of sending emails that appear to be from trusted sources with the goal of gaining personal information or influencing  users to do something. It combines social engineering and technical trickery. It could involve an attachment to an email that loads malware onto your computer. It could also be a link to an illegitimate website that can trick you into downloading malware or handing over your personal information.

Spear phishing is a very targeted type of phishing activity. Attackers take the time to conduct research into targets and create messages that are personal and relevant. Because of this, spear phishing can be very hard to identify and even harder to defend against. One of the simplest ways that a hacker can conduct a spear phishing attack is email spoofing, which is when the information in the “From” section of the email is falsified, making it appear as if it is coming from someone you know, such as your management or your partner company. Another technique that scammers use to add credibility to their story is website cloning — they copy legitimate websites to fool you into entering personally identifiable information (PII) or login credentials.

To reduce the risk of being phished, you can use these techniques:

Critical thinking — Do not accept that an email is the real deal just because you’re busy or stressed or you have 150 other unread messages in your inbox. Stop for a minute and analyze the email.
Hovering over the links — Move your mouse over the link, but do not click it! Just let your mouse cursor hover over the link and see where would actually take you. Apply critical thinking to decipher the URL.
Analyzing email headers — Email headers define how an email got to your address. The “Reply-to” and “Return-Path” parameters should lead to the same domain as is stated in the email.
Sandboxing — You can test email content in a sandbox environment, logging activity from opening the attachment or clicking the links inside the email.

Cyber Myth:

My cyber insurance will cover me for Phishing attacks True or False? False Phishing Attacks typically involve the loss of financial assets, for example if you accidently pay fake invoice, the Cyber policy would not usually reimburse those funds, for this you would require a Crime policy.

2. Denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks

A denial-of-service attack overwhelms a system’s resources so that it cannot respond to service requests. A DDoS attack is also an attack on system’s resources, but it is launched from a large number of other host machines that are infected by malicious software controlled by the attacker.

Unlike attacks that are designed to enable the attacker to gain or increase access, denial-of-service doesn’t provide direct benefits for attackers. For some of them, it’s enough to have the satisfaction of service denial. However, if the attacked resource belongs to a business competitor, then the benefit to the attacker may be real enough. Another purpose of a DoS attack can be to take a system offline so that a different kind of attack can be launched. One common example is session hijacking, which I’ll describe later.

There are different types of DoS and DDoS assaults; the most common are TCP SYN flood assault, teardrop attack, smurf attack, ping-of-death attack and botnets.

TCP SYN flood attack

In this assault, an assailant exploits the utilize of the buffer space amid a Transmission Control Convention (TCP) session initialization handshake. The attacker’s device surges the target system’s small in-process queue with connection demands, but it does not react when the target framework answers to those requests. This causes the target system to time out whereas holding up for the reaction from the attacker’s device, which makes the system crash or ended up unusable when the association line fills up.

There are a few countermeasures to a TCP SYN flood attack:

Put servers behind a firewall arranged to halt inbound SYN packets.
Increase the size of the connection queue and decrease the timeout on open connections.
Teardrop attack
This attack causes the length and fragmentation offset fields in sequential Internet Protocol (IP) packets to overlap one another on the attacked host; the attacked system attempts to reconstruct packets during the process but fails. The target system then becomes confused and crashes.

If users don’t have patches to protect against this DoS attack, disable SMBv2 and block ports 139 and 445.

Smurf attack

This attack involves using IP spoofing and the ICMP to saturate a target network with traffic. This attack method uses ICMP echo requests targeted at broadcast IP addresses. These ICMP requests originate from a spoofed “victim” address. For example, if the intended victim address is, the attacker would spoof an ICMP echo request from to the broadcast address This request would go to all IPs in the range, with all the responses going back to, overwhelming the network. This process is repeatable and can be automated to generate huge amounts of network congestion.

To protect your devices from this assault, you need to disable IP-directed broadcasts at the routers. This will forestall the ICMP echo broadcast request at the network devices. Another option would be to configure the end systems to keep them from reacting to ICMP packets from broadcast addresses.

Ping of death attack

This sort of assault utilizes IP bundles to ‘ping an objective framework with an IP size over the limit of 65,535 bytes. IP packets of this size are not allowed, so attacker fragments the IP packet. Once the target system reassembles the packet, it can experience buffer overflows and other crashes.

Ping of death attacks can be blocked by using a firewall that will check fragmented IP packets for maximum size.


Botnets are the millions of systems infected with malware under hacker control in order to carry out DDoS attacks. These bots or zombie systems are used to carry out attacks against the target systems, often overwhelming the target system’s bandwidth and processing capabilities. These DDoS attacks are difficult to trace because botnets are located in differing geographic locations.

Botnets can be mitigated by:

RFC3704 filtering, which will deny traffic from spoofed addresses and help ensure that traffic is traceable to its correct source network. For example, RFC3704 filtering will drop packets from bogon list addresses.
Black hole filtering, which drops undesirable traffic before it enters a protected network. When a DDoS attack is detected, the BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) host should send routing updates to ISP routers so that they route all traffic heading to victim servers to a null0 interface at the next hop.

Cyber Myth:

I don’t need Cyber Insurance. The average cost of a cyber-security breach is £600k-£1.15m for large businesses and £65k-115k for SMEs as of 2019. (Security Intelligence) Cyber Insurance makes sure your company is covered if the worst were to happen.

3. Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack
A MitM attack occurs when a hacker inserts itself between the communications of a client and a server. Here are some common types of man-in-the-middle attacks

Session hijacking
In this type of MitM attack, an attacker hijacks a session between a trusted client and network server. The attacking computer substitutes its IP address for the trusted client while the server continues the session, believing it is communicating with the client. For instance, the attack might unfold like this:

A client connects to a server.
The attacker’s computer gains control of the client.
The attacker’s computer disconnects the client from the server.
The attacker’s computer replaces the client’s IP address with its own IP address and
spoofs the client’s sequence numbers.
The attacker’s computer continues dialog with the server and the server believes it is still communicating with the client.

IP Spoofing
IP spoofing is used by an attacker to convince a system that it is communicating with a known, trusted entity and provide the attacker with access to the system. The attacker sends a packet with the IP source address of a known, trusted host instead of its own IP source address to a target host. The target host might accept the packet and act upon it.

A replay attack occurs when an attacker intercepts and saves old messages and then tries to send them later, impersonating one of the participants. This type can be easily countered with session timestamps or nonce (a random number or a string that changes with time).

Currently, there is no single technology or configuration to prevent all MitM attacks. Generally, encryption and digital certificates provide an effective safeguard against MitM attacks, assuring both the confidentiality and integrity of communications. But a man-in-the-middle attack can be injected into the middle of communications in such a way that encryption will not help — for example, attacker “A”  intercepts public key of person “P” and substitute it with his own public key. Then, anyone wanting to send an encrypted message to P using P’s public key is unknowingly using A’s public key. Therefore, A can read the message intended for P and then send the message to P, encrypted in P’s real public key, and P will never notice that the message was compromised. In addition, A could also modify the message before resending it to P. As you can see, P is using encryption and thinks that his information is protected but it is not, because of the MitM attack.

So, how can you make sure that P’s public key belongs to P and not to A? Certificate authorities and hash functions were created to solve this problem. When person 2 (P2) wants to send a message to P, and P wants to be sure that A will not read or modify the message and that the message actually came from P2, the following method must be used:

  1. P2 creates a symmetric key and encrypts it with P’s public key.
  2. P2 sends the encrypted symmetric key to P.
  3. P2 computes a hash function of the message and digitally signs it.
  4. P2 encrypts his message and the message’s signed hash using the symmetric key and sends the entire thing to P.
  5. P is able to receive the symmetric key from P2 because only he has the private key to decrypt the encryption.
  6. P, and only P, can decrypt the symmetrically encrypted message and signed hash because he has the symmetric key.
  7. He is able to verify that the message has not been altered because he can compute the hash of received message and compare it with digitally signed one.

P is also able to prove to himself that P2 was the sender because only P2 can sign the hash so that it is verified with P2 public key.

Cyber Myth

I don’t need Cyber Insurance I am only a small business. True or False? False 43 percent of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses. (Small Business Trends)

4. Drive-by attack

Drive-by download attacks are a common method of spreading malware. Hackers look for insecure websites and plant a malicious script into HTTP or PHP code on one of the pages. This script might install malware directly onto the computer of someone who visits the site, or it might re-direct the victim to a site controlled by the hackers. Drive-by downloads can happen when visiting a website or viewing an email message or a pop-up window. Unlike many other types of cyber security attacks, a drive-by doesn’t rely on a user to do anything to actively enable the attack — you don’t have to click a download button or open a malicious email attachment to become infected. A drive-by download can take advantage of an app, operating system or web browser that contains security flaws due to unsuccessful updates or lack of updates.

To protect yourself from drive-by attacks, you need to keep your browsers and operating systems up to date and avoid websites that might contain malicious code. Stick to the sites you normally use — although keep in mind that even these sites can be hacked. Don’t keep too many unnecessary programs and apps on your device. The more plug-ins you have, the more vulnerabilities there are that can be exploited by drive-by attacks.

5. Password attack

Because passwords are the most commonly used mechanism to authenticate users to an information system, obtaining passwords is a common and effective attack approach. Access to a person’s password can be obtained by looking around the person’s desk, ‘‘sniffing’’ the connection to the network to acquire unencrypted passwords, using social engineering, gaining access to a password database or outright guessing. The last approach can be done in either a random or systematic manner:

Brute-force password guessing means using a random approach by trying different passwords and hoping that one work Some logic can be applied by trying passwords related to the person’s name, job title, hobbies or similar items.
In a dictionary attack, a dictionary of common passwords is used to attempt to gain access to a user’s computer and network. One approach is to copy an encrypted file that contains the passwords, apply the same encryption to a dictionary of commonly used passwords, and compare the results.
In order to protect yourself from dictionary or brute-force attacks, you need to implement an account lockout policy that will lock the account after a few invalid password attempts.

6. SQL injection attack

SQL injection has become a common issue with database-driven websites. It occurs when a malefactor executes a SQL query to the database via the input data from the client to server. SQL commands are inserted into data-plane input (for example, instead of the login or password) in order to run predefined SQL commands. A successful SQL injection exploit can read sensitive data from the database, modify (insert, update or delete) database data, execute administration operations (such as shutdown) on the database, recover the content of a given file, and, in some cases, issue commands to the operating system.

For example, a web form on a website might request a user’s account name and then send it to the database in order to pull up the associated account information using dynamic SQL like this:

“SELECT * FROM users WHERE account = ‘“ + userProvidedAccountNumber +”’;”

While this works for users who are properly entering their account number, it leaves a hole for attackers. For example, if someone decided to provide an account number of “‘ or ‘1’ = ‘1’”, that would result in a query string of:

“SELECT * FROM users WHERE account = ‘’ or ‘1’ = ‘1’;”

Because ‘1’ = ‘1’ always evaluates to TRUE, the database will return the data for all users instead of just a single user.

The vulnerability to this type of cyber security attack depends on the fact that SQL makes no real distinction between the control and data planes. Therefore, SQL injections work mostly if a website uses dynamic SQL. Additionally, SQL injection is very common with PHP and ASP applications due to the prevalence of older functional interfaces. J2EE and ASP.NET applications are less likely to have easily exploited SQL injections because of the nature of the programmatic interfaces available.

In order to protect yourself from a SQL injection attacks, apply least0privilege model of permissions in your databases. Stick to stored procedures (make sure that these procedures don’t include any dynamic SQL) and prepared statements (parameterized queries). The code that is executed against the database must be strong enough to prevent injection attacks. In addition, validate input data against a white list at the application level.

7. Cross-site scripting (XSS) attack

XSS attacks use third-party web resources to run scripts in the victim’s web browser or scriptable application. Specifically, the attacker injects a payload with malicious JavaScript into a website’s database. When the victim requests a page from the website, the website transmits the page, with the attacker’s payload as part of the HTML body, to the victim’s browser, which executes the malicious script. For example, it might send the victim’s cookie to the attacker’s server, and the attacker can extract it and use it for session hijacking. The most dangerous consequences occur when XSS is used to exploit additional vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can enable an attacker to not only steal cookies, but also log key strokes, capture screenshots, discover and collect network information, and remotely access and control the victim’s machine.

While XSS can be taken advantage of within VBScript, ActiveX and Flash, the most widely abused is JavaScript — primarily because JavaScript is supported widely on the web.

To defend against XSS attacks, developers can sanitize data input by users in an HTTP request before reflecting it back. Make sure all data is validated, filtered or escaped before echoing anything back to the user, such as the values of query parameters during searches. Convert special characters such as ?, &, /, <, > and spaces to their respective HTML or URL encoded equivalents. Give users the option to disable client-side scripts.

8. Eavesdropping attack

Eavesdropping attacks occur through the interception of network traffic. By eavesdropping, an attacker can obtain passwords, credit card numbers and other confidential information that a user might be sending over the network. Eavesdropping can be passive or active:

Passive eavesdropping — A hacker detects the information by listening to the message transmission in the network.
Active eavesdropping — A hacker actively grabs the information by disguising himself as friendly unit and by sending queries to transmitters. This is called probing, scanning or tampering.
Detecting passive eavesdropping attacks is often more important than spotting active ones, since active attacks requires the attacker to gain knowledge of the friendly units by conducting passive eavesdropping before.

Data encryption is the best countermeasure for eavesdropping.

9. Birthday attack

Birthday attacks are made against hash algorithms that are used to verify the integrity of a message, software or digital signature. A message processed by a hash function produces a message digest (MD) of fixed length, independent of the length of the input message; this MD uniquely characterizes the message. The birthday attack refers to the probability of finding two random messages that generate the same MD when processed by a hash function. If an attacker calculates same MD for his message as the user has, he can safely replace the user’s message with his, and the receiver will not be able to detect the replacement even if he compares MDs.

10. Malware attack

Malicious software can be described as unwanted software that is installed in your system without your consent. It can attach itself to legitimate code and propagate; it can lurk in useful applications or replicate itself across the Internet. Here are some of the most common types of malware:

Macro viruses — These viruses infect applications such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Macro viruses attach to an application’s initialization sequence. When the application is opened, the virus executes instructions before transferring control to the application. The virus replicates itself and attaches to other code in the computer system.
File infectors — File infector viruses usually attach themselves to executable code, such as .exe files. The virus is installed when the code is loaded. Another version of a file infector associates itself with a file by creating a virus file with the same name, but an .exe extension. Therefore, when the file is opened, the virus code will execute.
System or boot-record infectors — A boot-record virus attaches to the master boot record on hard disks. When the system is started, it will look at the boot sector and load the virus into memory, where it can propagate to other disks and computers.
Polymorphic viruses — These viruses conceal themselves through varying cycles of encryption and decryption. The encrypted virus and an associated mutation engine are initially decrypted by a decryption program. The virus proceeds to infect an area of code. The mutation engine then develops a new decryption routine and the virus encrypts the mutation engine and a copy of the virus with an algorithm corresponding to the new decryption routine. The encrypted package of mutation engine and virus is attached to new code, and the process repeats. Such viruses are difficult to detect but have a high level of entropy because of the many modifications of their source code. Anti-virus software or free tools like Process Hacker can use this feature to detect them.
Stealth viruses — Stealth viruses take over system functions to conceal themselves. They do this by compromising malware detection software so that the software will report an infected area as being uninfected. These viruses conceal any increase in the size of an infected file or changes to the file’s date and time of last modification.
Trojans — A Trojan or a Trojan horse is a program that hides in a useful program and usually has a malicious function. A major difference between viruses and Trojans is that Trojans do not self-replicate. In addition to launching attacks on a system, a Trojan can establish a back door that can be exploited by attackers. For example, a Trojan can be programmed to open a high-numbered port so the hacker can use it to listen and then perform an attack.
Logic bombs — A logic bomb is a type of malicious software that is appended to an application and is triggered by a specific occurrence, such as a logical condition or a specific date and time.
Worms — Worms differ from viruses in that they do not attach to a host file, but are self-contained programs that propagate across networks and computers. Worms are commonly spread through email attachments; opening the attachment activates the worm program. A typical worm exploit involves the worm sending a copy of itself to every contact in an infected computer’s email address In addition to conducting malicious activities, a worm spreading across the internet and overloading email servers can result in denial-of-service attacks against nodes on the network.
Droppers — A dropper is a program used to install viruses on computers. In many instances, the dropper is not infected with malicious code and, therefore might not be detected by virus-scanning software. A dropper can also connect to the internet and download updates to virus software that is resident on a compromised system.
Ransomware — Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to the victim’s data and threatens to publish or delete it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple computer ransomware can lock the system in a way that is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion, which encrypts the victim’s files in a way that makes them nearly impossible to recover without the decryption key.
Here’s a few other general tips to ensure you don’t fall victim to cyber-crime.

Password protect yourself. we recommend using at least 8 characters (4 lowercase letters, 2 special characters and 2 numbers)  this gives you a possible 457,163,239,653,376 combinations meaning it will take a super computer 2.6 days to break it and changing it at least once a month. ( so unless you have some very good hackers you should be safe)
Install the latest updates. Whilst it may feel as if you’re being constantly bombarded by your phone and computer to update every few weeks, it’s important to run these updates on your operating systems to patch any security holes. In the case of the NHS breach ransomware spread from device to device by taking advantage of a security hole in an older version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system. This hole was fixed with the latest version of Windows and should act as a warning to those reluctant to update.
Regularly back-up your files. If worst comes to worst and you’re targeted by a cyber-attack, you can easily retrieve the files as you’ve safely stored them elsewhere. Devices for file storage and backing up are now cheaper than they’ve ever been, and this could save you a heap of money and ton of worry in the long term. (Just don’t leave them on the train)
Be careful what you click in emails. An easy way people can be caught out is by clicking on links in unexpected emails, or downloading unsuspecting attachments. It can be easily done, but be aware that the consequences are catastrophic for your internet security. Simply put, don’t click on hyperlinks in emails or download attachments if you don’t trust the sender.
Don’t give out personal information to unsolicited emails. People can be conned into providing personal information (phishing). Such emails trick a victim into thinking they’re entering their details into a genuine account. Instead you’re sending personal information to scammers who can use these details to take money or steal your identity. Legitimate senders like your bank will never ask you for any security details or ask you to transfer money into another account.
Make sure your antivirus product is up to date and run a scan. If you don’t have one then install one of the free trial versions from a reputable vendor

Even with all these precautions the worst can still happen. That’s why here at Vista Insurance Brokers Ltd we make sure you have the right cover. For more info contact us on 0161 393 7111

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