Decoding the Differences in Cybersecurity Threats and Attacks

Here at ATCOM, we take cybersecurity seriously. We want to make sure that our clients, our friends and family are properly educated on all the cybersecurity tips to keep themselves safe. However, it might be hard to protect yourself if you don’t know the types of threats and attacks that you might encounter. In this blog, I wanted to take the time to go over the different types of cyber threats and attacks to be on the lookout for.


Malware refers to any software specifically designed to harm or exploit computer systems, networks, or users. They can take many different forms, such as…

  • Viruses: Viruses attach themselves to programs and replicate when the infected program runs. They can spread to other files and programs on the same computer or network.
  • Worms: Worms are self-replicating malicious programs that can spread across networks without any user intervention. They exploit vulnerabilities in software or operating systems to propagate.
  • Trojan Horses: Trojans appear as legitimate software but contain hidden malicious functionalities. They deceive users into installing them, allowing attackers to gain unauthorized access to the system.
  • Spyware: Spyware secretly monitors user activities and collects information, such as login credentials and personal information, without the user’s knowledge or consent.
  • Adware: Adware displays unwanted advertisements on a user’s device. While not inherently harmful, it can be intrusive and negatively impact system performance.
  • Keyloggers: Keyloggers record keystrokes on a computer, allowing attackers to capture sensitive information.
  • Botnets: Botnets are networks of compromised computers, often controlled by a single entity.


Phishing is a cyber attack in which attackers deceive users into giving over sensitive information, such as personal information, login credentials, or financial details. It comes from the word “fishing” as attackers lure in individuals into their trap. Attackers usually utilize emails, but are also known for employing other forms of communications such as social media or messaging apps. They often create a sense of urgency to prompt the recipient to take immediate action by clicking a link or opening an attachment. The link will often lead to a fraudulant website disguised as a legitimate one, and will attempt to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials, while attachments may contain malware when opened.


Ransomware is a type of malware designed to encrypt files or systems on a victim’s computer or network, rendering them inaccessible. The attackers then demand a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency, in exchange for providing the decryption key or tool to restore access to the files or system.

Ransomware typically enters a system through a malicious email attachment, infected software download, or through an exploited vulnerability in your software or operating system. Some sophisticated forms can even spread across networks. Once inside the system, the ransomware encrypts files using a strong encryption algorithm. This process transforms the files into a format that can only be encrypted with a unique key, held by the attackers. After the encryption is complete, a ransom note is displayed or sent to the victim, often threatening permanent loss of data or an increase in the ransom payment if the payment is not made within a specific amount of time. If the victim chooses to pay the ransom, they receive instructions on how to transfer the cryptocurrency to the attackers, and, in return, the attackers provide the decryption key to unlock the files.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a manipulative technique used by cyber attackers to exploit human psychology and trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, providing access to confidential systems, or performing actions that may compromise security. Unlike traditional hacking methods that focus on exploiting technical vulnerabilities, social engineering primarily targets the human element. Some of the most common social engineering tactics include impersonation, phishing, and tailgaiting (physically following an authorized person into a secured area without the proper identification).

Knowing what kind of attacks cyberattackers use can help you and your team become more aware of your virtual and physical surroundings. If you’d like to improve your cybersecurity posture, ATCOM offers cybersecurity awareness training to teams along with vulnerability scanning, managed detection and response, and more. Reach out to us today to strengthen your organization’s cybersecurity.

Written by Kim Oliver


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