What is Attack Vectors? Top 10 Types

Attack Vectors

In the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, understanding attack vectors—ways for cybercriminals to infiltrate a system—is as essential as locking your doors at night. Here’s why: just as burglars use windows and doors to break into houses, cyber crooks use attack vectors to breach systems. In this article, we’re diving into the world of the ten most common attack vectors and how you can shield your systems against them.

Understanding Attack Vectors

What is an Attack vector?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s get clear on what an attack vector is. Simply put, it’s the method or pathway used by an offender to gain unauthorized access to a computer or network system. Think of it as the crowbar used by the digital thief to pry open your system’s window.

Attack vectors can be internal or external factors which can affect or damage infrastructure from data leaks to jeopardizing the services such as ransomware or DDOS attacks.

Attack vectors can vary depending on the target system, the attacker’s goals, and the available resources and knowledge of the attacker.

what is an attack vector

How Attack vector works?

An attack vector works by exploiting vulnerabilities or weaknesses in a system to gain unauthorized access or achieve malicious objectives. Below is a general overview of how attack vectors work.


Attackers gather information about the target system or network to identify potential vulnerabilities or weak points. This can involve scanning for open ports, researching system configurations, or gathering information about employees or users. The reconnaissance is extensive ranging from social media to network probing.


Once the attacker has identified a vulnerability, they exploit it to gain access to the target system or network. This can involve leveraging software bugs, misconfigurations, or social engineering techniques. Outdated software or outdated OS can also lead to such vulnerability.

Payload Delivery

The attacker delivers a payload, which could be a malicious code or a set of instructions, to the targeted system. This can be done through various means, such as email attachments as in phishing attacks, infected websites, or compromised network connections.


The payload is executed on the target system, allowing the attacker to establish control or achieve their malicious objectives. This could involve gaining administrator privileges, stealing sensitive data, or installing backdoors for future access.


To maintain access and control over the compromised system, the attacker may install additional software or modify system configurations. This helps ensure that even if the initial vulnerability is patched, they can still regain access.

Actions on Objective

Once the attacker has gained control, they carry out their intended actions, which could include data theft, unauthorized modification of data, disruption of services, or unauthorized access to other systems.

Covering Tracks

To avoid detection, attackers often attempt to cover their tracks by deleting logs, modifying timestamps, or hiding their activities within legitimate system processes.

10 Common Attack Vectors

These are the tools of the trade for the cybercriminals – the top ten common attack vectors they use to exploit your systems.

Phishing Attacks

This is the digital version of the con artist’s long game. They’ll send an email posing as a trusted entity to trick you into handing over sensitive information. It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, only it’s a criminal in your bank’s clothing. Phishing mails appear as if they are from any trusted source such as vendors, tech support or any other form of trusted source.

Phishing attacks can take different forms ranging from spear phishing, whaling, vishing, smishing and others. The main goal of such attacks are to steal personal information such as credit card information, SSN numbers or credentials.

Malware and Virus Attacks

Malware and viruses are the digital equivalent of a health epidemic. Just as diseases spread from person to person, malware spreads from computer to computer, causing havoc and often opening doors for further attacks.

Malware and Virus Attacks

Malware can be any software or code which is designed to gain unauthorized access to the system or network without malicious intent. Malwares can range from Virus, Trojan horses, spyware, keyloggers, ransomwares and botnets. These can slow down network or compromise sensitive data on the system or act as a backdoor for the attacker to gain access.

Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks refer to wireless networks that lack proper security measures, such as encryption and authentication protocols, to protect the data transmitted over them. These networks can pose significant risks to users as they allow potential attackers to eavesdrop on network traffic, intercept sensitive information, and launch various attacks.

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can lead to Man-in-the middle attacks, Eavesdropping, network spoofing, injection attacks etc.

Vendor Risks

Vendor risk refers to the potential risks and vulnerabilities that arise from engaging with third-party vendors or suppliers. When organizations rely on external vendors for products, services, or support, they expose themselves to various types of risks, which can impact their operations, security, reputation, and compliance.

SQL Injection

SQL injection is a type of web application security vulnerability that occurs when an attacker is able to manipulate SQL queries executed by an application’s database. This vulnerability arises when the application does not properly validate or sanitize user input that is used in constructing SQL queries, allowing malicious SQL code to be injected.

SQL Injection

How SQL injection works?

  1. User Input: The application takes user-supplied input, such as form fields, search queries, or URL parameters, and incorporates it into an SQL query.
  2. Malicious Input: An attacker intentionally provides malicious input, typically in the form of specially crafted SQL statements or fragments, with the aim of altering the query’s intended behavior.
  3. Query Manipulation: If the application does not properly handle or sanitize the user input, the malicious SQL code becomes part of the query that is sent to the database.
  4. Unauthorized Access or Manipulation: The injected SQL code can perform various unauthorized actions, such as bypassing authentication, retrieving or modifying sensitive data, or executing arbitrary commands on the database server.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a web application vulnerability that allows attackers to inject and execute malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. This vulnerability occurs when an application does not properly validate or sanitize user-supplied input and outputs it in a web page without adequate encoding or escaping.

How XSS works?

  1. Injection: An attacker injects malicious code, typically JavaScript, into user-generated input fields, such as search boxes, comment sections, or form inputs. This input is then stored in the application’s database.
  2. Output: When the application displays the stored user input on a web page without proper sanitization, the malicious code is included in the HTML response sent to other users’ browsers.
  3. Execution: When unsuspecting users visit the affected web page, their browsers interpret the injected script as legitimate code originating from the trusted website. This allows the attacker’s code to execute within the context of the target site and can lead to various malicious activities.

Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) are types of cyberattacks that aim to disrupt the availability of a targeted system or network by overwhelming it with a high volume of malicious traffic or resource-consuming requests.

  1. Denial of Service (DoS) : In a DoS attack, a single attacker attempts to make a service or network unavailable to legitimate users by flooding it with a large volume of traffic or exploiting vulnerabilities to exhaust system resources.
  2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): DDoS attacks are similar to DoS attacks but involve multiple compromised devices (a botnet) that are coordinated to launch a massive volume of attack traffic simultaneously. The attacker controls these compromised devices, often through malware or botnet networks, and directs them to flood the target with traffic from different sources. DDoS attacks are challenging to mitigate due to the distributed nature of the attack traffic.

Insider Threats

Insider threats refer to risks and vulnerabilities that arise from individuals within an organization who misuse their access, privileges, or knowledge to compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, systems, or resources. Insider threats can be intentional or unintentional and can result from employees, contractors, or partners with authorized access to an organization’s assets.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

A Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack is a type of cyber attack where an attacker intercepts and potentially modifies the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other. The attacker secretly relays and alters the information exchanged between the parties, making them unaware of the malicious intervention.

How a Man-in-the-Middle attack works?

  1. Intercepting Communication: The attacker positions themselves between the legitimate communicating parties, intercepting the traffic flowing between them. This interception can occur on various communication channels, such as Wi-Fi networks, wired connections, or even through compromised devices or networks.
  2. Impersonating Legitimate Parties: The attacker may use various techniques to impersonate one or both of the legitimate parties involved in the communication. This can involve the creation of fake websites, counterfeit SSL certificates, or spoofed IP addresses.
  3. Monitoring and Modifying Traffic: As the intermediary, the attacker can monitor the traffic passing through them. They can also modify the communication by injecting, altering, or deleting messages or data packets to suit their objectives. This can include stealing sensitive information, injecting malicious code, or manipulating the communication for malicious purposes.
  4. Transparent Relay: The attacker’s goal is to make the interception and alteration of the communication invisible to the legitimate parties. They aim to maintain a transparent relay of information, so the parties continue to believe they are directly communicating with each other.

Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a type of cyber attack where attackers use automated scripts or tools to systematically test large sets of username and password combinations against various websites and online services. The goal of credential stuffing is to exploit the reuse of usernames and passwords across different platforms by individuals. Attackers take advantage of the fact that many users reuse the same login credentials across multiple accounts.

How a credential stuffing attack works?

  1. Obtaining User Credentials: Attackers acquire username and password pairs through various means, such as data breaches, leaks, or by purchasing them on the dark web. These credentials are often obtained from one website or service and then used to attempt access on other platforms.
  2. Automated Login Attempts: Using specialized software or tools, attackers automate the process of submitting large volumes of username and password combinations to the login pages of targeted websites or applications. The software systematically tries different combinations at a high speed, exploiting the fact that users often reuse passwords.
  3. Account Takeover: When the attacker discovers a successful username and password combination, they gain unauthorized access to the victim’s account. They may then use the compromised account for various malicious purposes, such as identity theft, financial fraud, or unauthorized access to personal information.

How to Protect Against These Attack Vectors

Strengthening Your Defense with Defense in Depth

It involves implementing multiple layers of security controls to protect your systems, networks, and data. The goal is to create overlapping layers of defense that can mitigate various types of attacks and minimize the impact of a security breach. This approach recognizes that no single security measure can provide complete protection, and multiple layers are needed to effectively defend against sophisticated and evolving threats.

Implementing Real-time Detection

Implementing real-time detection is an important aspect of proactive cybersecurity. Real-time detection refers to the ability to monitor and analyze system activities, network traffic, and security events in real-time to identify and respond to potential threats as they occur. It involves the use of advanced monitoring tools, analytics, and automated alerting mechanisms to detect suspicious or malicious activities promptly.

Implementing Real-time Detection - attack vectors

The Power of Regular Software Updates

Regular software updates play a crucial role in maintaining the security, stability, and performance of software applications and systems. They provide important benefits in terms of cybersecurity and overall operational efficiency.

The Role of Training and Education

Training and education are akin to teaching everyone in your house how to stay safe. They’re about making sure every person in your organization understands the risks and how to avoid them.

The Role of Training and Education - attack vectors

Leveraging Advanced Cybersecurity Tools

Leveraging advanced cybersecurity tools is crucial in defending against sophisticated and evolving cyber threats. These tools offer enhanced capabilities for threat detection, incident response, and overall security management.


In conclusion, understanding the common attack vectors and implementing effective protection strategies is vital in safeguarding your systems, networks, and data from malicious threats. By being aware of the various attack vectors such as malware, phishing, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, DoS/DDoS attacks, insider threats, man-in-the-middle attacks, credential stuffing, and supply chain attacks, you can take proactive measures to mitigate the associated risks.

However, protecting against these attack vectors is an ongoing process. Cyber threats constantly evolve, and new attack vectors emerge. It is crucial to stay informed about the latest threats, regularly update your security measures, conduct risk assessments, and stay vigilant in detecting and responding to potential incidents. By prioritizing cybersecurity and implementing robust protection strategies, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these common attack vectors and safeguard your organization’s critical assets and reputation.


What is the attack vector?

The attack vector refers to the specific method or path used by an attacker to launch an attack or exploit a vulnerability in a system, network, or application. It describes the way in which an attacker gains unauthorized access, delivers malicious code, or manipulates the target to achieve their malicious objectives.

What is the difference between attack and attack vector?

Attack: An attack refers to a deliberate and malicious action taken by an individual or group with the intent to compromise the security, integrity, or availability of a system, network, or application. It is the actual act of exploiting vulnerabilities, compromising systems, or causing damage.

Attack Vector: The attack vector, on the other hand, is the specific method or path used by an attacker to execute the attack. It describes the entry point or the way in which the attack is launched, taking advantage of vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or human factors.

What is an example of an attack vector?

An example of an attack vector is a phishing email.

In a phishing attack, an attacker sends deceptive emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a trusted organization or service provider. The email typically contains a convincing message, urging the recipient to take action, such as clicking on a malicious link, downloading an infected attachment, or providing sensitive information.

The attack vector in this case is the email itself, which serves as the delivery mechanism for the phishing attack. By crafting and sending these malicious emails, attackers attempt to exploit human vulnerabilities and trick unsuspecting individuals into revealing personal information, login credentials, or financial details.

Once the recipient interacts with the malicious email, they may unknowingly compromise their system or fall victim to other forms of cyber attacks, such as credential theft, malware infection, or identity theft.

What are common types of attack vectors?

There are several common types of attack vectors that cybercriminals often exploit to compromise systems, networks, and data. Here are some of the most prevalent attack vectors –

1) Phishing Attacks
2) Malware Infections
3) Social Engineering
4) Web Application Attacks
5) Network Attacks

Lichumon is an enthusiastic SOC Analyst with a keen interest in exploring the complexities of the dark web and human risk factors in cybersecurity. Despite being early in his career, his eagerness to learn and adapt sets him apart. Balancing vigilance and curiosity, Lichumon navigates the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape with a sense of determination and commitment to continuous learning.