A cybersecurity threat is the threat of malicious attack by an individual or organization attempting to gain access to a network, to corrupt data or steal confidential information.

No company is immune from cyber attacks and the data breaches that can result. Some cyberattacks can even destroy computer systems.

As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, your business must implement the security needed to safeguard its data and networks.

First, however, you need to understand the types of threats you’ll face almost daily – the information security threats that exist today, as well as the new and emerging threats sure to plague your enterprise tomorrow.


Malware, the most common cyberattack tool, is malicious software. Types include spyware, ransomware, backdoors, trojans, viruses and worms.

Malware is usually installed into the system when the user clicks a malicious link or email. Malware can be delivered in a number of ways. Once installed, malware can block access to critical components of your network, damage your system, and gather confidential information.

  • Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain information about your computer activities by transmitting data covertly from your hard drive.
  • Ransomware is a form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files (and the systems that rely on them) unusable. Usually, malicious actors demand a monetary ransom in exchange for decryption.
  • A backdoor negates normal authentication procedures to access a system. The result grants remote access to resources within an application, such as databases and file servers, giving malicious actors the ability to issue system commands and update malware remotely.
  • Trojans are a type of malware or code that acts as a legitimate application or file to trick you into loading and executing the malware on your device. A trojan’s goal is to damage or steal your organization’s data or inflict some other harmful action on your network.
  • A computer virus is a malicious piece of computer code designed to spread from device to device. These self-copying threats are usually designed to damage a device or to steal data.
  • Worms are a type of malware that spreads copies of itself from computer to computer without any human interaction, and do not need to attach themselves to a software program to cause damage.

Your organization can prevent malware-based cyber attacks by:

  • Using reputable antivirus and anti-malware solutions, email spam filters, and endpoint security solutions.
  • Ensuring that your cybersecurity updates and patches are all up to date.
  • Requiring your employees to undergo regular cybersecurity awareness training to teach them how to avoid suspicious websites and to avoid engaging with suspicious emails.
  • Limiting user access and application privileges.

Phishing and spear phishing

Phishing is a type of social engineering that attempts to trick users into bypassing normal cybersecurity practices and giving up sensitive data, such as usernames and passwords, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and credit card data.

Typically, hackers send out phishing scam emails that seem to come from trusted senders such as PayPal, eBay, financial institutions, or friends and co-workers. The cybercriminals try to get users to click on links in the emails that will redirect them to fraudulent websites that ask for personal information or install malware on their devices.

Opening attachments sent via phishing emails can also install malware on your devices, or allow the hackers to control your devices remotely.

Spear phishing is a more sophisticated form of a phishing attack, in which cybercriminals target only privileged users such as system administrators and C-suite executives. The attackers might use details from a person’s social media accounts, to seem even more legitimate to the target.

Other types of phishing can include smishing, vishing, clone phishing, domain spoofing, URL phishing, watering hole phishing, and evil twin phishing. All types can be very costly.

Organizations can do several things to reduce the chances of phishing:

  • Implement cybersecurity awareness training for every employee across the board.
  • Emphasize the importance of phishing reporting.
  • Run random phishing simulations.
  • Push HTTPS on your website to create secure, encrypted connections.
  • Institute access management policies and procedures.
  • Use reliable email and spam filters.
  • Require two-factor authentication.
  • Use email encryption and email signing certificates.

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks

These attacks occur when malicious actors place themselves in the middle of a two-party communication. Once the attacker intercepts the communication, they filter and steal sensitive information and return different responses to the user.

Sometimes malicious actors set up fake wi-fi networks or install malware on users’ computers or networks. Also called eavesdropping attacks, the ultimate goal of MITM attacks is to gain access to your business or customer data.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS)

A DDoS attack aims to take down a company’s website by overwhelming its servers with requests.

In this attack, requests come from hundreds or thousands of IP addresses that have probably also been compromised and tricked into continuously requesting a company’s website. (Imagine an attacker calling a company’s phone number constantly, so the line is always busy and no other customers can get through.)

A DDoS attack can overload your servers, slowing them down significantly or temporarily taking them offline. These shutdowns prevent customers from accessing your website and completing orders.

Structured Query Language (SQL) injection

SQL injection attacks occur when cybercriminals attempt to access databases by uploading malicious SQL scripts. Once successful, the malicious actor can view, change, or delete data stored in the SQL database.

Domain Name System (DNS) attack

A DNS attack is a cyberattack in which cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in the DNS. The attackers leverage the DNS vulnerabilities to divert site visitors to malicious pages (DNS hijacking) and exfiltrate data from compromised systems (DNS tunneling).

Common sources of cyber threats

To respond effectively to any cyberattack, it’s important to know and understand threat actors and their tactics, techniques and procedures. These include:

  • Nation-states: Cyber attacks by a nation can disrupt communications, military activities, and everyday life.
  • Criminal groups: Criminal groups aim to infiltrate systems or networks for financial gain. These groups use phishing, spam, spyware, and malware to conduct identity theft, online fraud, and system extortion.
  • Hackers: Hackers explore various cyber techniques to breach defenses and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system or network. They are usually motivated by personal gain, revenge, stalking, financial gain, or political activism. Hackers may develop new types of threats for the thrill of challenge or bragging rights in the hacker community.
  • Terrorist groups: Terrorists conduct cyberattacks to destroy, infiltrate, or exploit critical infrastructure to threaten national security, compromise military equipment, disrupt the economy, and cause mass casualties.
  • Malicious insiders: Insiders may be employees, third-party vendors, contractors, or other business associates who have legitimate access to enterprise assets but misuse that access to steal or destroy information for financial or personal gain.

Emerging cyber threats

Most notably, the coronavirus pandemic has created the biggest challenge for businesses and IT organizations in 2020 and 2021. During the pandemic, cyberthreats and data breaches have increased and grown more sophisticated.

But things change constantly in the digital world. Your organization should pay close attention to emerging threats, as well.

Pandemic-related attacks

Cybercriminals will probably continue to use COVID-19 related topics as themes for phishing and social engineering campaigns.

Over the past several years, these attacks have often coincided with significant events, such as a sudden surge in coronavirus cases or the announcement of a new vaccine. Threat actors lure users into clicking a malicious link or attachment disguised as pandemic-related.

Cloud breaches

More and more companies are migrating to the cloud for remote working and to assure business continuity. Cybercriminals are following the same trend and targeting the cloud more frequently.

Cloud-based security risks, including cloud misfigurations, incomplete data deletion, and vulnerable cloud-apps, will be the most common sources of cyberattacks.

IoT attacks

Global organizations are increasingly deploying Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications to accelerate operations, capture more data, manage infrastructure remotely, improve customer service, and more.

Examples of IoT technologies in the workplace include everything from smart thermostats and videoconferencing technologies to warehouse stock monitors and even “smart” vending machines that can order their own refills.

Many IoT devices, however, lack security features, putting them at risk of cyber attack. Cybercriminals can exploit IoT vulnerabilities to gain control of devices for use in botnets and to penetrate your network.

What makes IoT technology so convenient is also what makes it so vulnerable: enhanced connectivity and convenience come with more security risks.

Cybersecurity threats and you

Becoming more aware of cybersecurity threats is the first step. What else can you and your organization do to become better-equipped to prevent them from happening?

Fortunately, there are tools that can help.

Cybersecurity and ZenGRC

ZenGRC from Reciprocity works in tandem with governance, risk management, and changing compliance demands to keep you up to date and safe.

With ZenGRC, a team of cybersecurity professionals is always looking out for your organization and its assets to make sure you get the best protection against security breaches and cyberattacks.

ZenGRC’s compliance, risk, and workflow management software is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform that not only keeps track of your workflow, but also lets you find areas of high risk before that risk has manifested as a real threat.

For more information on how ZenGRC can help your organization anticipate cybersecurity threats, contact us for a demo today. Worry-free compliance management is the Zen way.

3 Challenges Healthcare Compliance Teams Are Set
to Overcome with Reciprocity ZenGRC in 2022