The rapid pace of technological progress has let companies around the world benefit from operational improvements that lower costs. This progress, however, also brings risks that companies must take into account to protect their stakeholders.

Cyber-threats are executed by cybercriminals using various means to gain access to an organization’s digital infrastructure. Cyberattack vectors are the means and entrance points that allow attackers to exploit a security vulnerability and gain access to an operating system. These attack vectors vary depending on the design of the IT system.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) seeks to keep organizations up-to-date on common types of cyber threats and cybersecurity standards. The goal is to increase the overall level of cybersecurity awareness and to provide better protection to companies.

Common Cyber Attack Vectors, According to NIST

NIST maintains a list of common attack vectors that can help organizations to protect themselves against cyber threats. While the list is not a definitive list of all cyberattack vectors (since they increase all the time), it can be a starting point for developing effective cybersecurity policies.

Removable Media

Every network needs access points or endpoints through which information is sent to or received from servers. These access points are the legitimate gateways to the IT system and are part of its infrastructure, but they can also be a high-risk attack vector.

Removable devices such as USBs, SD cards, and the like can be the perfect means of introducing malware into a network or extracting sensitive data from it. Consequently, developing strict policies on using these tools and implementing measures to detect these threats is critical to reducing cyber-attacks and data breaches.


This attack vector focuses on the partial or total disruption of some component within the network. In this category, we find brute-force attacks to gain unauthorized access, forcing credentials, CAPTCHAs, or others. These attacks can also target the integrity of the network as a whole with denial-of-service (DoS) or distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.


Hackers have been exploiting the World Wide Web for malicious activities since its inception. Their threats have evolved along with the other technologies, so it is not surprising that such an old attack vector has endured.

Threats such as cross-site scripting (XSS) or SQL injections can threaten an organization’s IT infrastructure through malicious sites or web applications if no adequate protection mechanisms are in place.

Email and Impersonation

Emails pose several common attack vectors for both individuals and organizations. Through this vector, cybercriminals can carry out various types of attacks to gain unauthorized access to the network or infect it through email attachments.

Additionally, this attack vector relies on impersonation to achieve its goals — so-called “phishing” attacks. The sender poses as a legitimate source sending malicious attachments or links and instructs the receiver to install the malicious software in the computer systems.

Improper Usage

The vector of improper use relates to the human factor and the non-compliance with internal or external regulations. When cybersecurity policies are ignored, they open a window of opportunity for cybercriminals to put the organization and its computer systems at risk.

Compromised Credentials

The loss or theft of credentials is a significant risk vector with potentially devastating consequences for organizations. Unidentified data breaches, unreported document loss, and malicious insiders could leave an organization with no multi-factor authentication methods and in a defenseless position against potential attacks.

Preventing Cyber Attacks & Minimizing Risks

While attack vectors affect the security of your company’s network, there are several recommendations to protect your organization from cyberattacks and reduce your system vulnerabilities.

First, reinforce the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain: the human factor. Through periodic cybersecurity awareness training, organizations can better protect themselves against phishing attempts and social engineering attacks.

In addition, design strategies that actively and automatically protect the integrity of the network and its essential elements. Deploy effective and up-to-date antivirus software, coupled with firewalls, to meet the constantly evolving threats in the digital world.

Next, segment the network and establish strict permissions for network users. This allows companies to reduce the risk of sensitive information breaches. Implementing two-factor authentication for users can also strengthen the security of the IT infrastructure and minimize the potential for credential theft and ransomware attacks.

Finally, adopt a policy of periodic penetration testing, attack surface management, and cybersecurity performance evaluations to protect the company from ransomware attacks or advanced persistent threats.

Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks from ZenGRC

A cybersecurity program integrated with continual risk management is critical for protecting your business in today’s threat environment.

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance tool that helps your security team with a consolidated dashboard for identifying information security risks throughout your whole organization.

By automating the majority of the process, ZenGRC can make tracking your company’s metrics a breeze. In addition, ZenGRC offers risk assessment modules that provide insight into both vendor and business risk, hence simplifying the entire IT audit process.

Easy-to-use dashboards show you which risks need to be mitigated and how to do so. You will always be audit-ready with tasks, workflows, and documents managed and stored in the same platform.

Schedule a free consultation today to discover more about how ZenGRC can help you with risk management.