8 Types of Cybersecurity Attacks Most Common in 2021 and How to Prevent Them

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns of modern businesses and even for individuals. While the internet is a blessing, it can be a curse in the form of cybersecurity attacks such as phishing scams, malware, ransomware, etc.

Sadly, these attacks are increasing every day with the advancement of technology. According to this report, 36 billion records were exposed in 2020's first half due to data breaches.

To add fuel to the fire, Covid-19 further increased cyber crimes as people from across the world embraced the online work culture. This gave cyber attackers an opportunity to launch sophisticated phishing campaigns and other threats, increasing cyber crimes to 600%.

Many cyberattacks are financially driven, but some are motivated by espionage or revenge. Whatever be the reason, we need to fight back and remain secure by employing best security practices.

Whether you are a small, medium, or large business, you need to secure your network, system, and devices to block harmful intent and prevent your company from data loss, reputation damage, or penalties.

But if you want to fight with the enemy, you ought to know about the enemy. For this, let's discuss some of the common cybersecurity attacks at present and the ways to prevent them.

Table of Contents

1. Phishing

Phishing attacks are dangerous cyber security threats, and sadly, one of the most common ones. A report says that 56% of decision-makers in IT think phishing attacks are their top cyberthreat.

Phishing attacks can occur when a hacker utilizes a fake identity to steam information or trick users into giving out valuable, sensitive information, downloading malware, visiting a malicious site, and so on.

The widespread usage of digital communication, such as social media, chats, text messaging, emails, etc., contributes to the increasing number of phishing attacks.

Emails are mostly targeted where you may receive a genuine-looking email (except it’s not) coming from the government or your bank. It may ask you to enter your username and password or visit a website. Other phishing attacks may impersonate a real person with fake social media accounts and exploit family or friends.

Protection mechanism: Training your employees to detect phishing tactics and patterns such as generic salutation without your name, bad grammar, and generic signature can help reduce the incidences. Instruct them not to give sensitive information to suspicious emails or links.

You can also directly reach out to companies to clarify if they have made a request. In addition, you can install anti-phishing toolbars to get alerts about sites with phishing information.

2. Malware

Malware is malicious software that harms a computer or device. There are different types of malware, such as viruses, ransomware, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, and more.

Malware can enter a system through hard drives, internet downloads, or USB drives. And once it enters a computer system, it starts performing malicious functions like encrypting, stealing, or deleting data. It can also hijack the system’s core functions or monitor user activity secretly to keep an evil eye on them.

As a result, operations disrupt, and data breaches can cost businesses in terms of cost and reputation. A report highlights that 18 million+ sites are infected every week with malware.

Protection mechanism: Businesses must educate their employees to detect suspicious links and not engage with them as they might contain malware. In addition, you must also update your operating systems regularly to ensure there are no security loopholes. You can also use anti-virus software to detect and block viruses.

3. DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of service (DDoS) is a type of cybersecurity attack where a hacker floods the target server, network, app, site, or service with huge traffic to disrupt a business’s operation or bring down the system. It is advanced and can leverage several compromised devices in an attempt to flood the server. As a result, it prevents legitimate users from accessing your site or network.

The types of DoS and DDoS attacks are botnets, smurf attacks, teardrop attacks, ping-of-death attacks, and others.

Protection mechanism: Unlike DoS attacks that firewalls can detect easily, DDoS attacks are trickier to identify as they seem legitimate traffic. But you can prevent your system or network from DDoS attacks by blocking the entire traffic when in suspicion for a short duration, using web application firewalls, scattering traffic on different servers to reduce the impact, and rate-limiting traffic for a site.

4. Password Hacking

Passwords hacking is also a widespread and deadly form of cyberattack. Passwords act as an authentication method to log in to a system and carry out different activities like banking, messaging, social media accounts, etc.

Hence, hackers are always on the lookout to steal passwords and exploit users by accessing sensitive data and controlling or manipulating systems.

Hackers use various methods to find user passwords, such as social engineering, breaking into a password database, guessing possible password combinations, or testing a network connection to gain unencrypted passwords.

Protection mechanism: You can protect your passwords by employing password monitoring best practices or using multi-factor authentication (MFA) such as two-factor authentication (2FA). You can also follow NIST Password Guidelines to be one step ahead of hackers.

5. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

Man-in-the-Middle attacks happen when a third-part inserts themselves between two-party transactions to steal or manipulate data. This is a type of eavesdropping attack where the attacker intercepts a communication.

While this interception goes on, the two communicating parties don’t get the slightest idea that someone is eavesdropping. But the hacker accesses or modifies their messages unlawfully before they reach their destination.

MitM can occur through:

  • Malicious software installed by the hacker after the breach
  • Uncensored public Wi-Fi

Protection mechanism: Employing an end-to-end encryption protocol such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) can help protect your network from MitM attacks. You can also guide your employees to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access your company network instead of public Wi-Fi to keep the communications private.

6. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is done to access a user account by entering stolen login credentials like the username and password of another account. Simply put, the attackers use the same credentials to access multiple accounts.

These attacks are increasing as many people use the same password for different accounts, making it easy for hackers to access all their accounts if they manage to steal a single account’s password.

Protection mechanism: Using 2-factor authentication is helpful where you can set verification through a username and password along with phone or email verification. Another way to protect passwords is to set different passwords for different accounts. Plus, never share your passwords with anyone else, and if you need to share, do it verbally, not through any electronic media.

7. SQL injection

SQL injection is a cybersecurity attack where an attacker injects malicious code into a server with the help of Server Query Language (SQL) to force the server to expose protected information. For this, the attacker submits malicious code in a website’s search box or comments. If the website’s database permissions are not set properly, cyber goons can exploit the HTML form and execute queries to create, delete, read, or modify data.

Protection mechanism: Your coding practices must be secure to block SQL injections. For this, use prepared statements and parameterized queries.

8. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

In cross-site scripting, an attacker injects malicious code on a webpage, typically in comments. It works like SQL injection, but it aims to infect other visitors of the infected webpage instead of exploiting data from the website’s database.

If a website does not use sanitation methods to filter inputs before publishing the comment, a hacker can easily input malicious code hidden in the webpage. So, when other visitors come to this page, they can fall prey to it as the code will start executing in their device’s web browser. As a result, it can steal information or redirect them to a malicious site.

Protection mechanism: There are different ways to protect from XSS attacks:

  • Sanitize all your inputs before publishing the output anywhere on your site. Your code must not output any data directly without checking its input for malicious intent.
  • Use a suitable encoding technique such as JavaScript escape, HTML escape, etc., to be on the safer side.
  • You must also spread awareness in your team to be vigilant about XSS, set up content security policies, and scan your web apps for XSS.

Other common cybersecurity attacks are zero-day exploits, accidental sharing, SMS-based scams, database exposure, PDF scams, crypto-jacking or mining, rootkits, and more.


According to statistics, the average cost of a single malware attack is $2.4 million on a business. Nobody wants to risk their data or get into financial or legal troubles due to cyberattacks, whether it’s individuals or companies.

This is why it’s essential to employ security measures against cybersecurity attacks like the ones just discussed and protect your reputation, business and user data, and avoid penalties.