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4 Common Attack Vectors You Need to Know

Cybercriminals use various attack vectors to target users, steal their sensitive data, or exploit their network system.

data breaches, Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report

Online adversaries always advance their hacking techniques to enhance their attack vectors. Cybercriminal groups focus on different kinds of cyberthreats such as data breaches, malware, phishing, or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. According to the 2021 Cyber Security Report, cybercriminal groups have largely exploited the pandemic situations by targeting all business sectors, cybersecurity professionals, and C-Level executives. It was found that, on average, one new organization globally becomes a victim of a ransomware attack every 10 seconds. It might be alarming to find that over 46% of organizations had at least one employee who downloaded a malicious mobile application.

By Rudra Srinivas, Senior Feature Writer, CISO MAG

There might be different attack vectors for hackers, but the goal is only one – target victims’ digital assets.

What is an attack vector?   

An attack vector is any method or path used by an attacker to gain unauthorized access to a victim’s network system, break into users’ devices, or exploit known vulnerabilities. Attack vectors enable cybercriminals to meet their goal of successfully launching cyberattacks.

Categories of an Attack Vector

Usually, the attack vectors leveraged by cybercriminals fall under two categories: Active attacks and Passive attacks.

In an Active attack vector, attackers try to obtain unauthorized access to a network system by disrupting its operations. Exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities, email spoofing, malware, and ransomware attacks come under Active attack vectors.

In a Passive attack vector, attackers aim to gain access to a targeted system without affecting its resources. Spear-phishing, URL hijacking, and other social engineering-based attacks come under Passive attacks.

Common Types of Attack Vectors

Threat actors utilize both active and passive attack vectors to target their victims, with the end goal of exploiting targeted devices or pilfer sensitive information. While there are several attacks vectors that malicious actors leverage, the most common attack vectors include:

1. Brute-Force Attack

A brute force attack is a credentials-cracking technique in which attackers try to guess usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to a targeted source by the trial-and-error method. Attackers launch brute-forcing both manually and by using automated tools that leverage a list of password combinations to crack the users’ passwords.

How to Avoid Brute-force Attacks

  • Use strong passwords/passphrases
  • Restrict access to authentication URLs
  • Use CAPTCHA feature for authentication
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
  • Enable account lockout option, after multiple wrong login attempts

2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting or XSS attacks involve injecting malicious code into web applications to target the visitors of a particular website. The attackers mostly deploy malicious scripts or code, written in JavaScript, Flash, and HTML, in the website’s content or comment section. In XSS attacks, threat actors aim to steal users’ browser cookies and pilfer sensitive information such as login credentials, financial details, and other private information.

How to prevent XXS attacks

  • Avoid accepting third-party cookies
  • Be wary of user comments on websites
  • Never click/open suspicious URLs

3. Phishing Attacks

A phishing attack is a common cyberthreat in which hackers target a particular user or group of users with malicious URLs and attachments sent via phishing emails. Once a user clicks/opens the malicious URL or attachment in a phishing email, it’ll redirect the user to a fake login page tricking the user into entering login credentials.

At times, attackers also send dangerous malware like Adware, Spyware, Banking Trojans, Ransomware, and cryptocurrency miners which cause a severe impact to users and organizations. Five Phishing Baits to Know

How to prevent being phished

  • Never open/click on suspicious emails
  • Use anti-phishing software to filter phishing emails

4. DDoS Attacks

In Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, cybercriminals try to make a targeted system or service unavailable to its users by flooding it with unwanted incoming messages and traffic from different sources.

Attackers mostly launch DDoS attacks on network resources like data centers, servers, and websites of a computer system. DDoS attacks cause disruption of services or even crash of the services.

DDoS Countermeasures

  • Use DDoS-prevention services
  • Enable Content Delivery Network (CDN) solutions


To prevent various attack vectors cybercriminals leverage, we need to first identify an enterprise’s security loopholes and vulnerabilities. Companies need to device a management solution for BYODs, especially in these testing times of remote working. With complete awareness of different attack vectors and proper security measures in place such as having a spam firewall or web filter, one can stay ahead of cybercriminals and their social engineering techniques.

About the Author


Rudra Srinivas is a Feature Writer and part of the editorial team at CISO MAG. He writes news and feature stories on cybersecurity trends.