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DevOps and Security Glossary Terms

Glossary Terms

Attack vector - definition & overview

In this article
What is an attack vector?
Why are attack vectors exploited in cyber security attacks?
How to exploit attack vectors
What are common attack vectors in the IT infrastructure?
Monitor potential cyber attack vectors with Sumo Logic
What is an attack vector?
Why are attack vectors exploited in cyber security attacks?
How to exploit attack vectors
What are common attack vectors in the IT infrastructure?
Monitor potential cyber attack vectors with Sumo Logic

What is an attack vector?

In cyber security, an attack vector is a path that a hacker takes to exploit cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Key takeaways

  • Hackers steal information, data, and money from people and organizations by investigating known attack vectors and attempting to exploit vulnerabilities.
  • The three most common attack vectors used by hackers are phishing emails, malware, and unpatched vulnerabilities.
  • IT organizations can mitigate against cyber-attacks through a number of different methods, including real-time event detection and response capabilities that neutralize cyberattacks before they can lead to data loss.

Why are attack vectors exploited in cyber security attacks?

Hackers make money by performing malicious cyber attacks on software systems, but they aren't always looking to steal credit card data or banking information. Some hackers have developed more sophisticated ways of monetizing their attacks, such as:

  • Infecting hundreds or thousands of computers with bots to establish a network, known as a botnet, to send spam, perform cyber attacks, steal data or mine cryptocurrency. The hacker can remotely access the bots from an off-site command-and-control server.

  • Customer data theft from target organizations that collect and store large amounts of personal data from their customers.

  • A denial of service (DoS) attack overloads IT systems and leads to unplanned service outages.

There are hackers with motivations other than money, such as those that want to leak secret information to the public, embarrass someone they disagree with, or make a political statement. However, for most IT organizations, the majority of cyber attacks will come from hackers that are trying to steal personal and financial data.

How to exploit attack vectors

The general methodology of exploiting attack vectors is the same:

  1. Hackers identify a target system that they wish to penetrate or exploit

  2. Hackers use data collection and observation tools such as sniffing, emails, malware or social engineering to obtain more information about the target

  3. Hackers use this information to identify the best attack vector, then create tools to exploit it

  4. Hackers break the security system using the tools they created, then install malicious software applications

  5. Hackers begin to monitor the network, stealing your personal and financial data or infecting your computers and other endpoint devices with malware bots

Securing potential attack vectors against exploitation by hackers requires IT organizations to implement policies and procedures that prevent hackers from obtaining useful information about IT security vulnerabilities.

What are common attack vectors in the IT infrastructure?

IT organizations need to be aware of the most common attack vectors for malicious cyber attacks to effectively safeguard their networks against unauthorized access.

These are the most common attack vectors used by hackers and how to mitigate them.

  • Phishing emails try to trick the recipient into giving up restricted information, often by presenting them with a link to a malicious website. While IT personnel may be savvy about verifying the contents of an email, members of the business may not be.
    Mitigation strategy: Encourage reporting of phishing emails and block known senders of malicious mail through a centralized email filter, to prevent users from being bombarded with phishing emails. Provide guidelines and tips for how to distinguish phishing emails from legitimate emails.

  • Malware is a catch-all term that describes any program that introduces malicious code into your IT infrastructure. Viruses, worms and trojans are all examples of Malware. Malware infections can spread throughout the IT infrastructure, creating a lot of overtime for IT SecOps teams and potentially compromising valuable data while impacting service availability.
    Mitigation strategy: Zero-day attacks are difficult to avoid, but maintaining an up-to-date antivirus and firewall can significantly reduce the probability of a successful virus attack against your organization.

  • Security vulnerabilities that are neglected by the IT organization, can be used as an attack vector.
    Mitigation Strategy: Regularly monitor all of your applications and servers for available patches, and perform updates as soon as possible to reduce your vulnerability.

Monitor potential cyber attack vectors with Sumo Logic

Sumo logic uses machine learning and big data analysis to deliver industry-leading IT security capabilities, including threat detection, incident response and forensic investigation. Sumo Logic obtains threat intelligence from CrowdStrike via an up-to-date IOC (Indicators of Compromise) database that contains the latest information on known threats and attack vectors. Learn more about Sumo Logic’s full-stack application monitoring and observability.

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