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Understanding the Methods of Infiltration: Attack Vectors

Threat Actor’s Methods of Infiltration


Threat actors use many different methods to breach or infiltrate their victims’ network. These methods are known as attack vectors. An attack vector is a way a threat actor gains access to a computer or network to execute malware or exfiltrate data. These attack vectors work because they enable the threat actor to take advantage of specific vulnerabilities within an environment. Understanding these different attack vectors and the vulnerabilities they exploit is key to preventing a cyber-attack.


Main Attack Vectors


Attackers are getting cleverer and more innovative year after year with their attack methods, but three main attack vectors utilized by threat actors include brute force, phishing, and zero-day vulnerabilities.


  1.       Brute force

Brute force is when a threat actor relentlessly attempts to determine passwords or access encrypted data by trying numerous passwords until one works. This method exploits weak login credentials and/or weak encryption methods.


There are a few types of brute force attacks, but two more common ones include a dictionary attack and credential stuffing. A dictionary attack is when a threat actor selects a target and runs potential passwords against the target’s username. Credential stuffing is when a threat actor already knows a target’s username and password for one website. The threat actor will try to gain access to a ton of other services with the same username and password.


  1.       Phishing E-mails

Phishing e-mails utilizes social engineering to exploit the human element of security. This is an online scam where threat actors lure users into clicking malicious links or giving up personal data. Their tactics are getting more sophisticated which results in more victims. Threat actors continue to rely on the phishing method to gain unauthorized access.


  1.       Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

Zero-Day Vulnerabilities are susceptibilities that remain unknown in an environment until a breach happens. An attack exploiting this vulnerability before a developer can patch it up is known as a Zero-day attack. Threat actors use port scanning and penetration testing tools, in addition, to exploit kits to begin finding those unpatched vulnerabilities. Effective vulnerability management is key to stop a threat actor in their tracks.


Lesser-Known Attack Vectors


There are also a few other lesser-known attack vectors. One includes session hijacking and a man in the middle attacks. This is when a logon cookie or public Wi-Fi connection is intercepted by an attacker to gain access to the user’s data or redirect network traffic. Another is Structured Query Language (SQL) injection or cross-site scripting where malicious code is injected in a SQL database or website to impact users and possibly gain access to their sensitive information.


Don’t Fall Victim to Attack Vectors


Although these methods seem vast and potentially overwhelming, there are a few ways to prevent yourself and your network from being a victim of these infiltrations. One way is to educate yourself on how these attacks happen. Another way is to understand your environment’s vulnerabilities, knowing the possible ways your defenses can be breached, and putting in place the proper protections. Additionally, make sure you use strong passwords, proper anti-virus software, endpoint detection, and require proper employee awareness training.



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