With many businesses partially or fully committing to a digital presence, cyber crime is naturally rising. If the necessary preventive measures aren’t taken, a business stands to lose sensitive data that can impact not only the business’s performance but the safety of its customers.
In this article, we’ll go over the types of cyber attacks, their severity, and, most importantly, how to avoid them entirely to protect your digital assets client information and comply with safety regulations.
Understanding common types of cyber attacks
It’s essential to understand the different types of cyber threats – if you can identify them and their warning signs, you’ll be better equipped to set the relevant preventive measures and deal with them.
Malware attacks involve hackers who install malicious software to a target system, aiming to cause harm, damage systems, steal sensitive data, or gain unauthorized access without the knowledge or consent of the original user.
Many hackers install malware with weak security systems on servers, clients, or computer networks. These malware systems are often viruses.
Malware installation is one of the more popular types of cyber attacks, and it has many different forms:
- Ransomware Attacks – Ransomware is software that disables the victim’s access to data through encryption. The hacker may then demand payment for the decryption key; hence, they’re holding valuable information for “ransom.”
Victims usually introduce ransomware onto their devices by clicking on a malicious link.
- Spyware – Spyware is designed to collect information from a system, server, or device without the user’s knowledge or consent. It includes passwords, payment information, and other user information.
- Trojan Horse – A Trojan is a malware that disguises itself as legitimate or desirable software. Once it’s installed, however, hackers can use it to infiltrate the user’s network and carry out malicious acts like extracting, modifying, and deleting data.
- Adware – A very popular type of malicious software, adware displays unwanted advertisements and popups on the user’s computer or device.
- Fileless Malware – Unlike traditional malware, fileless malware uses tools already installed on the victim’s device but alters their code or uses them for malicious purposes. It’s called “fileless” because no files are actually downloaded onto the device’s hard drive.
- Rootkits – Rootkits allow cyber criminals to gain control over a computer or network with administrative rights. Users usually infect their devices with this type of malware by opening spam e-mails.
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are cyber attacks that prevent new visitors from entering a website by flooding it with fake traffic. A DDoS attack is analogous to an unruly crowd swarming the entrance of a supermarket, not allowing regular customers to enter.
E-commerce stores are often the target of planned DDoS attacks, and they’re difficult to deal with since the traffic is distributed in many sources; therefore, simply blocking one source won’t disrupt the attack.
In most cases, DDoS attacks don’t directly benefit the cyber criminal, but they can be motivated by revenge, hacktivism, and even blackmail.
A phishing attack may be a fraudulent e-mail, phone call, or website designed to make users download malware or provide personal information like credit card numbers and login credentials. Often, a phishing e-mail will pose as an official entity like a bank, asking users to go through some sort of verification process.
Phishing attacks are deceitful in nature and are considered a common type of social engineering, as they take advantage of fear, doubt, human error, and pressure tactics. According to the FBI, they’re also the most popular way of distributing ransomware.
In e-commerce, phishing attacks are a common way to gain access to an online store’s website, revenue, and customer data. Cyber attackers will usually present themselves as employees of a website owner’s platform (marketing platform, website builder, etc.) and send a link requiring users to enter login details.
Phishing attacks can be conducted en masse – targeting two or more people simultaneously. It is known as Bulk Phishing.
Spear Phishing, however, targets a single individual with privileged access to data or resources. In this case, the initial phishing message is personalized and may appear surprisingly realistic.
An SQL injection is a cyber attack that targets databases used by websites or applications.
Most websites and apps use the language SQL to interact with databases that store and retrieve data. Whenever a website user inputs any data, like entering usernames or passwords, for example, SQL queries are created for the relevant database to accept and interact with them.
In an SQL injection attack, hackers may submit malicious input, including SQL code, effectively manipulating weaknesses in how user input is processed. The injected SQL code becomes part of the actual SQL query sent to the database, which can lead to harmful consequences.
For example, attackers might gain access and editing rights to data or even complete control.
Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks (also known as Eavesdropping Attacks) are a type of cyberattack in which an entity intercepts or influences the communication between two parties without their knowledge. The original parties believe they are communicating directly, but the attacker is actually acting as an intermediary who relays information, often manipulating the data being exchanged for personal benefit.
Naturally, the cyber criminal is usually looking to receive personal information, account details, and credit card numbers.
There are multiple ways that a hacker could intercept communication and conduct an MITM attack:
- Passive Network Eavesdropping – One of the simplest and most common ways to conduct MITM attacks is by creating an open Wi-Fi network (without password protection). Anyone who connects to the hotspot gives access to their data.
- ARP Spoofing – Attackers can link their own MAC address to a user’s IP address via deceitful ARP messages. Ultimately, this leads to data interception.
- IP Spoofing – An attacker may disguise themselves as an app or website. As a result, users may unwillingly be redirected to the attacker’s website.
- SSL Stripping – If a website uses HTTPS encryption, an attacker may downgrade the connection to HTTP, making intercepting and stealing data easier.
Brute force attacks use algorithms and bots to crack passwords, login credentials, and encryption keys using a trial-and-error method. Sometimes, hackers use logic to guess a password and gain access to sensitive information manually.
This method is time-consuming and requires a lot of resources, but it’s relatively consistent. It’s important to have complex login credentials to prevent password attacks, as most victims of brute-force attacks are websites with weak security measures.
How cyber attacks can harm your online store
Online stores work with very sensitive data – revenue reports, customer data, and banking credentials. It means that the impact of a cyber attack can be detrimental – sometimes even permanent. Let’s go over some of the potential consequences of a malicious attack on your website.
If attackers gain unauthorized access to customer data like payment details and personal information, this could lead to severe consequences like identity theft and fraud.
Ultimately, this influences your customers’ future buying decisions and could even motivate them to take legal action against you. On the other hand, depending on your region and the nature of the breach, you may also be subjected to governmental penalties for failing to protect your customers’ data.
A security breach can directly impact your business’s financial stability in multiple ways.
Here are some of the most common:
- Stolen Funds – Cybercriminals may directly access your financial accounts, withdraw company money, or even divert user payments to an outside account.
- Downtime – While you deal with the consequences of the cyber attack, you’ll possibly have to close public business operations temporarily. It leads to a loss of sales, momentum, and customer loyalty.
- Legal Fees – Legal proceedings that result from data breaches and stolen funds could lead to serious legal expenses and fines.
- Recovery – Before rebooting your website, you’ll have to invest in restoring your website and data. A heavy expense may also be the introduction of new cybersecurity systems.
Company reputation is fragile when cyber attacks occur. Some businesses never recover from them. An online store can lose the trust of its customers if they perceive the website and their data as vulnerable. As a result, customer loyalty can be tarnished.
News of a breach spreads quickly within an industry, especially a niche one. Attracting negative attention from media and competitors can also hurt your reputation and have a long-term impact on the business’s growth and partnership.
Best practices for securing your online store
Prevention is the name of the game. Putting the right cybersecurity measures in place prematurely can save you a lot of resources, stress, and downtime. Let’s look at some of an online store’s most common yet effective security practices.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security protocol that fosters a secure encrypted connection between the user’s web browser and the server. Essentially, SSL ensures a secure data exchange between the visitor and the website, making outside interception extremely difficult.
Website visitors can see whether a website uses an SSL certificate if its URL starts with https rather than http. The “s” stands for secure. It can give users a sense of security and make the brand trustworthy.
Use complex passwords using lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols. You can utilize a password vault that stores all of your passwords safely and prevents password attacks.
The more complex a password is, the harder it is for a computer to guess it. Pair that with regular password updates, and the chances of receiving a brute-force password attack are very minimal.
Keep your online store up-to-date – that includes plugins, themes, CMS, and other apps or software. Hackers can take advantage of many vulnerabilities stemming from outdated website elements, so regularly patching your security measures is crucial.
Every team member, no matter their clearance level or position, should have a 2-factor Authentication (2FA) login process in place. This login method requires multiple levels of authentication on top of the initial password input. It can include an e-mail, SMS, or phone call confirmation or using a third-party authentication app or software.
Tools and technologies for detecting and preventing cyber attacks
Integrating technical cyber security solutions is fundamentally essential to an online organization. Here, we’ll review some tools you can use to further improve your resistance to malicious code and actions.
You can install a web application firewall (WAF) and monitor incoming traffic. A firewall app lets you filter incoming traffic and even block malicious requests. That is an excellent tool for protection against SQL injections and cross-site scripting attacks.
Antivirus software helps to identify programs and files for signs of malware. They’re a very productive anti-malware measure, and it’s highly recommended to have one installed on essential hardware such as central company computers, especially ones that work with customer data.
Intrusion Detection Systems
This type of system, commonly referred to as IDS, monitors network traffic for malicious activity and alerts website owners of potential attacks and unusual activity. The difference between an IDS and a firewall app is that firewalls follow a predetermined set of rules. At the same time, IDS can identify patterns of common computer attacks and have more flexible functionality.
Your choice of hosting provider can significantly impact the security of your website. Some hosting companies include services like server hardening, DDoS protection, and regular updates that ensure hackers stay out of touch with the system’s new version.
Encryption tools (like SSL) encrypt data so that even if hackers reach your website’s data, they won’t be able to use it as it’s converted into a format that can only be accessed using the appropriate decryption key. That is a great safety net for your security system, and many websites prioritize encryption in terms of security.
These systems scan your website and applications for security vulnerabilities, helping you address weaknesses before they’re exploited. There are even some browser-based vulnerability scanners. It’s healthy to conduct regular checks as newly added content, extensions, and systems can open up the potential for new holes in your security.
Employee training and education
Educating your employees about relevant cybersecurity practices is crucial for keeping an e-commerce website safe. It’s recommended to conduct regular training sessions and update your team on the latest cybersecurity threats and the company’s privacy and security policies.
Your employees should be aware of potential phishing threats and password security rules, and most importantly, they should be instructed in proper data handling.
A key aspect of the security processes of a business is establishing processes for potentially successful cyber attacks – threat identification and incident reporting are crucial steps in minimizing the effects of security breaches.
The importance of regularly backing up your data and having a disaster recovery plan in place
Even if a website has the tightest security system, an organization should have a backup plan if things unexpectedly go south. Having a disaster recovery plan could very well be the difference between closing operations permanently and having a second chance.
Backing up your data on a regular basis allows you to return your website to its previous state. It is especially useful in types of cyber attacks such as cross-site scripting, where the integrity of the website’s code is compromised, or you lose access to it completely.
A disaster plan, on the other hand, comprises practical steps your team needs to follow to reduce the impact of attacks and speed up the process of recovery and threat elimination. In the next section, we’ll cover exactly that.
What to do if your online store is compromised
Finally, let’s go over some practical steps you and your team can take to expedite the recovery process post-cyber attack.
Report the Incident
A threat should be reported to the relevant team member or department as soon as it is observed. From there, the proper measures can be taken using the appropriate tools and resources.
Isolate and Contain
Quickly isolate the compromised systems to prevent the attack from spreading. A possible solution is disconnecting the affected servers from the Internet if the malware or malicious code depends on a connection.
Transparency with your users is essential. You should inform them of the breach, providing crystal clear information about the attack and the steps they could take to protect their data.
Change your login credentials as soon as possible. It includes personal accounts, admin dashboards, and other areas of your website.
Identify Reasons and Implement Prevention Measures
Once you deal with the threat and update and run your anti-malware systems, you must retrospectively identify the vulnerabilities of the website and the possible reasons for the attack occurring. If you can pinpoint exactly what happened, you’ll be able to implement the necessary measures to avoid this type of crisis from occurring again.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are some insider threats to website security to consider?
Some insider threats include malicious employees, former employees, third-party contractors, poor password management, and falling for phishing scams.
What motivates a cyber attack?
Usually, cyber-attacks are inspired by political or ideological reasons, data manipulation, and even personal revenge. However, in most cases, financial gain is the primary motivational factor.
What is the single most common type of cyber security attack?
While this may surprise some, phishing is one of the top causes of data breaches. Luckily, this is one of the more preventable forms of cyber attack.