4 modern attacks

4 Modern Attacks All Businesses Should Be Able to Defend Against

August 21, 2017 | By

There are two major categories of attacks out there today: those designed to steal information, and those designed to steal money. There can be some overlap between the two, but those are the major attacker objectives that every business should keep in mind.

Now, how attackers go about those objectives can vary quite a bit, so below we’ll share with you the four most common modern attacks that all businesses—but especially SMBs—should be aware of and armed against.

Credential Phishing

Most phishing attacks boil down to deceiving a user into entering critical data (typically a username and password) into an electronic form that appears legitimate, but actually conveys this sensitive information to hackers. Phishing is the most common way of stealing usernames and passwords, which in turn gives the attacker full access to your online data and assets.

Links to phishing forms can be delivered via spoofed emails or spoofed websites that pass right through traditional firewalls and antivirus. These phishes are often very compelling and entice users to give up their usernames and passwords or other sensitive types of information.

Exploit Kits

Many people believe the only way for malware to reach an end user’s system is for the user to take an active role in downloading the infection — even if that role is unintentional. This can include clicking on a bad link or downloading a malicious attachment.

With exploit kits, that is no longer true.

Exploit kits are a means to inject malware that doesn’t require the user to knowingly download or execute anything to infect their own computers and devices. These kits have an internal catalog of known exploits to operating systems and web browsers — some of them zero-day exploits — that they proactively employ to access and insert themselves into your systems.

Think of an exploit kit as a virtual burglar with a ring of skeleton keys that fit common models of door locks. The exploit kit tries these keys in sequence until one of them opens a backdoor into your network or devices. It doesn’t matter if your users kept those doors locked and their own keys (as in, their usernames and passwords) safe. The exploit kits let themselves in on their own. If there is an exploit in the web browser, this can mean malware being downloaded and executed without any user interaction, and without any notification from the browser.


It is common knowledge that visiting unsavory websites can lead to malware infections, but many users (and even IT managers) don’t realize that even popular, mainstream web properties that have not been hijacked by hackers can pose a danger thanks to malvertising.

How? Major websites derive their revenue from serving online advertisements, which are often provided by syndicated ad networks. Hackers use legitimate websites to deliver malware by corrupting these ad networks and leveraging them to embed malware in their customers’ webpages.

Through no fault of their own, your users can visit a perfectly safe website and click on nothing but regular in-page links—or, thanks to exploit kits, in some cases click on nothing at all—and yet be redirected to a malware domain. With an appropriately fast connection, the user wouldn’t even notice. Worse, because only certain ads will contain these exploit kits, it can be very difficult to attribute the source of the malware attack.


Ransomware is a particularly pernicious breed of malware that can encrypt the contents of your computer, tablet, or smartphone—effectively bricking the device—and then demand a ransom to decrypt the data and return the device to normal function. Ransomware is both extremely profitable for hackers and quite difficult (sometimes impossible) to repair once a device is maliciously encrypted.

Ransomware is typically delivered via an attack vector that includes the ability to run an executable file via a phishing email, exploit kit, or malicious ad.

How to Defend Yourself

While the four attacks above are quite common and often target small businesses, never fear. Today, it’s possible to defend against cyberattacks even with a small business-sized budget. DNS-based protection is the ideal defense against everything from credential phishing to malvertising, and it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.

Want to learn more about exactly how Strongarm can protect you against the four attacks above (and more)?


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