A cybersecurity threat is the threat of a malicious attack by an individual or organization attempting to gain access to a computer network, corrupt data, or steal confidential information. An information security threat is an attack that pertains directly to the IT stakeholders and your organization’s computer networks.

No organization is immune from cyber attacks and data breaches. Some attacks can even destroy computer systems.

As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, your business must implement security precautions and firewalls while analyzing cybersecurity risks to keep your data safe.

top 7 cybersecurity threats

What Are the Top Information Security Threats?

To answer this question, one first needs to understand the difference between infosec and cybersecurity, as well as the types of threats you’ll face. This includes both the information security threats that exist today, as well as the new and emerging threats sure to plague your enterprise tomorrow.


The most common cyberattack is malicious software, more commonly known as malware. Malware includes spyware, ransomware, backdoors, trojans, viruses, and worms.

  • Spyware allows attackers to obtain information about your computer activities by transmitting data covertly from your hard drive.
  • Ransomware blocks access to files on a device, rendering any files (and the systems that rely on them) unavailable. Usually, malicious actors demand a cash ransom in exchange for a decryption key.
  • A backdoor circumvents routine authentication procedures to access a system. This gives the attacker remote access to resources within an application, such as databases and file servers, and allows malicious actors to issue system commands and update malware remotely.
  • Trojans are 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 to inflict some other harm on your network.
  • A computer virus is malicious code designed to spread from device to device. These self-copying threats are usually intended to damage a machine or steal data.
  • Worms are malware that spread copies of themselves from computer to computer without human interaction. They do not need to attach themselves to a software program to cause damage.

Malware is usually installed into the system when the user opens a malicious link or email. Once installed, malware can block access to critical components of your network, damage your system, and export confidential information to destinations unknown.

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 attack that attempts to trick users into giving over sensitive data such as usernames and passwords, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and credit card data.

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

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

Spear-phishing is a more sophisticated form of phishing attack, where cybercriminals target only privileged users, such as system administrators or 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 can be costly.

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

  • Implement cybersecurity awareness training for every employee.
  • 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

Man-in-the-middle attacks occur when malicious actors insert themselves into the middle of a two-party communication. Once the attacker intercepts the incoming message, they filter and steal sensitive information and then returns different responses to the original user.

Sometimes malicious actors set up fake Wi-Fi networks or install malware on users’ computers or networks. Also called eavesdropping attacks, MiTM attacks aim to access 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. It’s analogous to calling a company’s phone number constantly so that legitimate callers only get a busy signal and never get through.

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.

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 where 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).

Insider threats

Insider threats occur when an individual within an organization either mistakenly or purposefully allows access to crucial secure networks. This can happen when an employee doesn’t follow proper information security protocols and clicks on a phishing link or installs malware. They may also accidentally email customer data to an unsecure third party or grant unauthorized access to an ill-intentioned actor.

Drive-By download attack

A drive-by download attack occurs when an individual visits a website and a piece of code is installed without their permission. This is a common cybercrime that allows the criminal to install a Trojan or malware, or steal information without the individual’s knowledge.

What Are Common Sources of Cyber Threats?

Understanding threat actors and their tactics, techniques, and procedures (“TTPs”) is essential to respond effectively to any cyberattack. Attackers can include:

  • Nation-states. Cyber attacks by a nation can disrupt communications, military activities, and everyday life.
  • Organized crime. 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 employ 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 threats for the hacker community’s thrill of challenge or bragging rights.
  • 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.
  • Insiders with malicious intent. Insiders can be workers, contractors, third-party suppliers, or other business partners who have lawful access to company resources but abuse it to steal or destroy data for their own or others’ financial or personal advantage.

Emerging Cyber Threats

The coronavirus pandemic created a huge challenge for businesses and IT organizations in 2020 and 2021. During the pandemic, cyber threats and data breaches proliferated and grew more sophisticated. Alas, that wave of innovation in cyber attacks will not recede in 2023 or beyond. So your organization should pay close attention to emerging threats, as well.

For example, the current Ukraine/Russia conflict has resulted in escalated information security threats and cyber attacks, some of which have impacted the United States. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports multiple cybersecurity attacks and data breaches on behalf of both Ukraine and Russia, with both sides suffering the effects.

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. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are following the same trend and frequently target the cloud.

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

IoT (Internet of Things) attacks

Global organizations increasingly use “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices – really, sensors and other physical devices connected to the Internet – 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 refills.

Many IoT devices, however, lack security features, putting them at risk of cyber attacks. 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.

Attacks driven by generative AI

Generative artificial intelligence apps such as ChatGPT do not write malware or ransomware code upon request. They can, however, be used to generate other types of code that might then be converted into malware. This means that more potential threat actors will use generative AI to support their activities and become actual threat actors.

The result: the number of malware threats and attacks in the world is likely to rise. Companies should plan accordingly.

How Can Businesses Manage Cybersecurity Risks?

For organizations of all sizes, cybersecurity threats are growing increasingly severe. To guard against cyberattacks effectively, you’ll need to implement a risk management program.

Cybersecurity risk management is the process of detecting, assessing, and managing an organization’s IT security risks. In addition, IT professionals must create a robust cybersecurity architecture that complies with pertinent regulations, standards, and best practices.

Developing a cybersecurity risk management strategy and distinguishing between strategic versus operational risk makes your entire organization more aware of cyber threats. Implementing a preventative approach can:

  • Reduce the impact of cyberattacks and the harm brought on by cyber hazards
  • Boost operational efficiency
  • Safeguard company resources and earnings
  • Improve your compliance with legal or regulatory obligations
  • Boost the standing of the company with customers and other stakeholders

See also

How to Upgrade Your Cyber Risk Management Program with NIST

Creating a Framework for the Management of Cybersecurity Risks

This risk management program checklist will increase your understanding of cybersecurity risks and your capacity to stop harmful assaults involving malware, phishing, and ransomware. Broadly speaking, you should:

  • Recognize the security environment
  • Find any gaps
  • Establish a team and delegate responsibilities
  • Increase the importance of risk management education and awareness campaigns
  • Put in place a risk management framework based on industry standards
  • Create a program for assessing the risk to cyber security
  • Make a business continuity and incident response plan, including network security and the installation of any necessary security software

Take Control of Cybersecurity Risks with the ROAR Platform

The RiskOptics ROAR Platform works with governance, risk management, and changing compliance demands to keep you up-to-date and safe.

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

ROAR’s compliance, risk, and workflow management software is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform that keeps track of your workflow and lets you find areas of high risk before that risk becomes a real threat.

Schedule a demo today for more information on how the ROAR Platform can help your organization anticipate cybersecurity threats.

How to Upgrade Your Cyber Risk
Management Program with NIST