Most common types of cyberattacks in 2023

Most common 2023 Types of Cyber Attacks cover web

Cybercriminals constantly evolve their methods and develop sophisticated techniques to infiltrate our interconnected world. From elaborate nation-state campaigns to opportunistic ransomware attacks, hackers tirelessly explore new avenues in their pursuit. As a result, cyberattacks multiply every year, leaving individuals and organizations vulnerable.

To secure digital ecosystems, staying informed of the most common types of cyberattacks in 2023 is crucial. This blog will delve into the escalating battle against criminals, uncovering the key challenges and proactive measures necessary to fortify your defenses.

What is a cyberattack?

A cyberattack is a malicious and deliberate attempt by an individual or an organization to breach an information system. The attacker (often called a hacker) aims to disrupt, damage, steal, alter, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system or network, usually intending to extract or compromise data.

Some cyber attacks are financially motivated. They may target individuals, businesses, or financial institutions to steal sensitive information. Data like credit card details, login credentials, or personal information can be sold on the black market or used for fraud.

Other cyber attacks may be driven to disrupt rival nations or organizations as a form of modern warfare. These hackers often have political or strategic motivations to gain a competitive advantage or destabilize their targets.

Cyberattacks can take wildly different forms, from installing spyware on a device to conducting large-scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) on significant network infrastructure. Here are its main types:


1 Phishing illustration

Phishing is a social engineering technique when attackers disguise themselves as trustworthy entities, usually via email, to trick recipients into disclosing sensitive information. Phishing cyber attacks look like genuine emails from colleagues or official institutions. The catch is that the provided links in these emails lead to malicious websites or initiate malware downloads.

In real-life, phishing is usually a gateway to initiate additional cyberattacks on top of it. Phishing may be used to obtain genuine user credentials to plant malware or access classified documents. As one of the most common cyberattack methods, it primarily targets individual users and SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses).


2 Ransomware illustration

Ransomware is malware that locks down a victim's files and demands a ransom to restore access. With the advent of cryptocurrencies and the increasing connectivity of devices, hackers can remain anonymous while exploiting the fact that many businesses rely on digital technologies. One such incident can put all business operations out of commission.

High data value enables hackers to get away with a hefty ransom, as sometimes it may seem cheaper and faster to pay the amount for a business. The lucrativeness of this cyber attack type was one of the main contributing factors to its popularity in 2023.


3 Spyware illustration

Spyware is another type of malware that tracks data flowing through network assets and sends this information to controllers outside the targeted organization. Hackers use it as a monitoring tool to track their victim's activities or extract other data. Spyware can include keystrokes, browsing habits, and even confidential business information.

This malware can be spread through infected websites, malicious emails, hacked USB flash drives, or even freeware applications. Some advertisers even use spyware legitimately to deliver targeted ads (as most users agree to terms and conditions without actually reading them).


4 Viruses illustration

Also known as worms, viruses are self-replicating malicious software that can quickly infect large connected networks. Their effects can range from light disruption to complete system failure. Some viruses remain dormant for long periods, while others are set to work immediately.

They work by attaching to an executable host file, which results in their viral codes executing when a file is opened, such as an Excel sheet or a .pdf document. It means that viruses generally spread through email attachments and file-sharing programs. In any case, businesses must be up to date to detect such attachments before they wreak havoc on their perimeter.


5 Malware illustration

Malware is a broad category describing various types of malicious software, including ransomware, spyware, and viruses. The specific actions of malware will depend on its exact type, but its overall objective is consistently centered around disrupting a computer, server, client, or computer network. It may involve leaking confidential information, illicitly accessing systems, restricting access to data, or unintentionally compromising the user's computer security and privacy.

Man-in-the-middle attacks

6 Man-in-the-middle attacks illustration

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is a type of cyberattack where an attacker intercepts and potentially alters the communication between two parties without their knowledge. The attacker positions itself between the sender and the recipient, becoming a "middleman" in the process.

This type is different from phishing because the source is entirely genuine. It's just that it's been altered to serve the hacker's goals. An obvious example would be attacking an organization's financial department and changing the bank transfer code. As neither party notices anything unusual, this cyber attack type is tough to detect and is usually discovered after the attack.

SQL injection

7 SQL injection illustration

SQL injection is an exploit technique when an attacker externally manipulates the input parameters of an SQL (Structured Query Language) query. As many applications and websites dynamically construct SQL queries by combining the user-supplied input and the query string, this provides a window of opportunity for hackers.

The attacker identifies a vulnerable input field in a web application that accepts user input, like a login form, search box, or any other input field. Then, a crafted input with SQL code needs to be submitted as part of the user input. If the application takes input as a SQL query without validation, it can be executed by the application's database engine. It interprets the injected SQL query as part of the code infiltrating the database.

SQL injection allows hackers to perform many unauthorized actions like bypassing authentication, retrieving sensitive data, modifying or deleting database records, or executing arbitrary commands on the underlying system.

DDoS attacks

8 DDoS attacks illustration

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of a computer network, service, or website by overwhelming it with a flood of illegitimate traffic. In a DDoS attack, multiple compromised devices or systems are used to generate a massive volume of requests or data packets toward a target, overwhelming its resources and making it unavailable to legitimate users.

These attacks can be launched from anywhere, making them highly challenging to mitigate. Furthermore, attackers often employ tactics like IP address spoofing or multiple attack vectors simultaneously, making it more challenging to identify and block malicious traffic.

Zero-day exploits

9 Zero-day exploits illustration

Zero-day exploits refer to unknown security vulnerabilities or weaknesses in software, operating systems, or applications. They have no official patches because developers had zero days to address them before they were exploited.

These exploits are highly sought after by both cybercriminals and security researchers because they provide a significant advantage to the attacker. Zero-day exploits are dangerous because there are no available defenses or countermeasures.

DNS tunneling

10 DNS tunneling illustration

DNS tunneling is a technique to bypass security measures and exfiltrate data from a network. The attacker exploits the DNS protocol to establish a covert communications channel between a compromised machine within a network and an external server controlled by the attacker. It allows them to send and receive unauthorized data through DNS queries and responses.

DNS tunneling poses a significant security risk because it leverages a widely used and trusted protocol to bypass firewalls and other security measures that typically monitor and restrict data traffic. By hiding within DNS traffic, attackers can exfiltrate data without arousing suspicion.

XSS attacks

11 XSS attacks illustration

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks inject malicious scripts into websites that users trust, aiming to steal sensitive data. XSS attacks typically target web applications that allow user-generated content, such as online forums, comment sections, or input fields.

The attacker finds a vulnerable website and identifies the input field for submitting comments, search queries, or any other user input form. A malicious payload is then crafted using scripts or code, often written in JavaScript. Unaware of malicious intent, the website accepts and stores or displays the input. When users interact with the compromised web page, the website serves the malicious payload to their browser. It leads to malicious code execution in the victim's browser.

Common cyberattacks on SMBs

Cybercriminals often target small businesses because they typically have less secure networks and less sophisticated cybersecurity measures than large corporations. At the same time, they still have enough sensitive information to be attractive targets.

Phishing — is the most popular attack against SMBs because it requires the least preparation time. All a hacker needs is a convincing email message, adjusting the formatting, and sometimes spoofing an email's domain address while dodging spam filters. Then all that's left to do is wait for the victim to click the link.

Malware — as this type involves all varieties of malicious software, there are countless ways and methods of how an SMB could come into contact with it. Malware can range from ransomware that encrypts files and demands a ransom to release them to spyware that collects and sends sensitive data to the attacker.

DoS and DDoS — due to their disruptive nature, organizations and businesses are often the targets of this attack. Business services can be completely shut down, making it impossible for legitimate users to access the system. Small businesses can become targets of such attacks as digital vandalism or as a distraction for another type of attack.

Be safe with NordLayer

While NordLayer doesn't have a miracle cure for all cyberattacks, it can assist your organization in protecting its connections over the public internet. You can do it by encrypting the connection between the user's device and the middleman server using advanced ciphers.

Additionally, NordLayer can block access to malicious websites and control entry to specific content categories. It lowers the risk that an employee will infect the network after clicking a malicious link, whether it came from an email or was encountered online.

Taking proactive measures to ensure your sensitive information remains secure from various threats is the only way to navigate the modern cyber landscape. Contact our team and find out how to improve your resistance against cyberattacks.


How often do cyberattacks occur?

Cyberattacks happen daily (some sources claim one cyber attack occurs every 39 seconds). Their frequency and severity vary based on the target, the attacker's skills, resources, and the defensive measures in place.

What is the most significant cybersecurity incident in 2023?

In April 2023, the Shields Health Care Group, a medical services provider in Massachusetts, experienced the most significant data breach of the month. Towards the end of the month, news surfaced indicating that a cybercriminal had illicitly infiltrated the organization's systems and successfully obtained the personal information of 2.3 million individuals.

What are the top 3 most common cyberattacks in 2023?

As of 2023, the top three most common cyber attacks are phishing, ransomware, and DDoS attacks. These pose significant threats due to their high success rate and potential for causing substantial damage.

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