“What are the differences among the terms cyber attack, cyber threat & cyber risk?”

“What are the differences among the terms cyber attack, cyber threat & cyber risk?”

It’s easy to confuse cyber attack, cyber threat, and cyber risk, but everyone should have at least a baseline of knowledge about cybersecurity in the modern online environment. iFlock’s here with a quick guide to understanding what these terms mean, and how they relate to cybersecurity as a whole.

What’s the differences between cyber attack, cyber threat, and cyber risk? Cybersecurity terminology can be confusing for the average layman, with many similar terms that mean very different things. While it pays to let cybersecurity specialists and experts handle your cybersecurity needs, it’s important to know the basics and understand the terminology so that you can select the right partners and do your part to keep your network and data secure.

Let’s look at these easily confused terms and how they relate to cybersecurity.

Cyber Attack, Cyber Threat, Cyber Risk?

The terms cyber attack, cyber threat, and cyber risk are all interrelated, but each describes a different aspect of the cybersecurity realm.

  • A cyber attack is an offensive action, an assault on a network or system with the intent of penetrating it to obtain data or cause negative effects to the network/system owner or operator.
  • A cyber threat is a possibility that a particular attack may occur.
  • A cyber risk is a probability that a particular cyber attack or type of cyber attack will occur.

The CyberSecurity Forum uses the following example: “For example, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber attack by a botnet is a cyber threat for many enterprises with online retail websites, where the associated cyber risk is a function of lost revenues due to website downtime and the probability that a DDoS cyber attack will occur.”

Let’s explore each of these three terms in more detail.

Cyber Attack

Cyber attacks are offensive actions by malicious actors with the intent of undermining the functions of a network or computer system and/or penetrating their defenses. The intent of the attack may be unauthorized access, changes to the system, or destruction of systems and resources.

Common types of cyber attacks include:

  • Malware: Malware is probably the most common threat laymen think of when they are asked to define a cyber attack. Malware is simply malicious software, such as viruses, spyware, worms, or ransomware, that attackers attempt to insert into a system to aid in an attack. Malware may deny access to parts of a network, retrieve data or information, or disrupt or destroy components of the system.
  • Phishing: Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which an attacker attempts to trick a legitimate user into allowing access to a system. One common method is an email that appears to be from a legitimate sender, but when the user clicks a link in the email it grants access to the attacker to insert malware, malicious scripts or files, or extract data.
  • Man in the Middle: A “man in the middle” attack exploits network vulnerabilities to gain access to a 2-party transaction. By inserting itself into the middle of the transaction, the attacker can both access and manipulate the data a user believes is going to a legitimate destination.
  • Denial of Service: This type of attack floods systems and/or networks with fake traffic to overload their resources and bandwidth to crowd out any legitimate network activity. This may be intended to open any vulnerability for another type of attack, or simply to shut networks or systems down.
  • Zero-Day Exploit: A zero-day exploit is when an attacker utilizes an existing vulnerability before the software developer can recognize it, close it, and issue a patch to close it.
  • SQL Injection: Attackers can sometimes insert malicious code into a server utilizing server query language (SQL), such as submitting it into a comment box or search box on the website. While secure coding practices can prevent this sort of attack, it’s still common.

Cyber Threat

A cyber threat is a potential cyber attack. Ascertaining a threat’s probability of occurrence is critical for an organization to assess their cyber risk and deploy their resources accordingly.

“Cyber threat” and “cyber attack” are often used interchangeably.


Cyber Risk

A Cyber risk is a probability that a particular cyber threat, such as a data breach, MitM attack, or DOS attack, will occur.

A cyber risk assessment takes into account the probability that a cyber threat will occur and the potential consequences an organization could suffer if a successful cyber attack takes place. These consequences potentially include:

  • Financial loss
  • Disruption of operations
  • Loss of proprietary information or trade secrets
  • Reputation/trust damage from customers, investors, and/or other stakeholders.

In general, the more extensive and sophisticated your digital footprint is, the higher your cyber risk. A detailed risk assessment is necessary to determine your organization is prioritizing cybersecurity properly compared to your level of risk.


Protecting Your Business

With cybercrime rising sharply during the COVID19 pandemic, the cyber risk to businesses and organizations has never been higher. A realistic assessment of the threat profile is critical to ensuring your business is prepared to defend against cyber attacks,

The best way to stay secure is a trusted, proven cybersecurity partner. The right partner can focus on keeping your organization safe so you can focus on your operations and doing the things you do best.

iFlock is a trusted and proven partner with the right certifications, knowledge, and experience to secure your digital operations. We can ensure PCI-DSS compliance, test and retest your defenses, and educate your team on how to avoid phishing scams that can circumvent even the strongest defenses.

iFlock can keep your business safe from the latest and most serious cyber threats. Learn more today!

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