Cyber-Attacks: The Basics

17th June 2019
Cyber Security infograph

A cyber-attack is a deliberate attempt by hackers to cause significant damage to a computer network, usually for financial gain. With cybercrime increasing year-on-year, becoming cybersmart is crucial to your online safety. You can help protect yourself from online threats by learning about the most common types of cyber-attacks.


A person who uses technology to commit illegal activity on the internet and across other computer systems. This may be committing identity fraud online or hacking into computer networks to steal confidential corporate data.


A term used to describe any type of malicious software. Malware is installed onto a computer system without the user’s consent and is intended to cause damage. Trojan horses, spyware, viruses, botnets and worms are all different types of malware attacks.


Malicious software which travels from computer to computer, causing damage as along its path. A computer virus may harm other computer software and corrupt or destroy data. Viruses spread when the software or files they are attached to are transferred to another computer system.


Self-replicating software which has the purpose of causing damage. Unlike viruses, worms are not attached to other software or files so don’t need human help to spread. Instead, worms infiltrate and spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities.

Trojan Horse

pA malicious program disguised as legitimate software which appears useful to a victim. Once activated by a computer user, the Trojan gains backdoor access to the computer system, causing damage or spreading other malware. Unlike worms and viruses, Trojan horses cannot replicate themselves.


Malware with a purpose of secretly monitoring a computer user’s online activity to collect personal and sensitive information. One type of spyware, known as a “keylogger”, can record the keystrokes a victim makes. This allows passwords and credit card details to be captured.


A network of computers, infected by a common malware, that are under the control of a single cybercriminal group. The criminal group can command each infected computer to simultaneously carry out illegal activity. This may be sending out large volumes of email spam or secretly monitoring the computer activity of an organisation.


Fraudulent communications (usually emails) where the sender poses as a reputable source. Phishing scams are designed to steal personal information by coaxing the victim into providing personal data. They may also trick the victim into installing malware disguised as downloadable files.

Cyber Smart Tips

  • Protect your computer with up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Be cautious of open wi-fi networks which may not be secure.
  • Choose strong and unique passwords and change them on a regular basis.
  • Only make online purchases from secure and credible websites.
  • Be careful of emails prompting you to click on links or download files.
  • Keep your computer operating system up-to-date.

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