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4 Major Types of Application Attacks and How to Prevent Them

The 2020 report by the Global Threat Intelligence Center showed a significant rise in application attacks. The same was evident in Verizon’s 2020 report.  According to Verizon, software and application-specific attacks accounted for over half of all the breaches in 2020. This was almost 2x the number of attacks recorded in 2019.

These reports have something that all application developers and application-dependent organizations should worry about. As app complexity continues creeping in, these reports affirm the dire need to tighten application security posture. This starts with understanding the most common application attacks and how they can be prevented.

Common Attacks on Applications and How to Prevent Them

1. Denial of Service (DoS) attack

A Denial of Service is a type of attack where the hacker shuts down a network or a machine, so the users can’t access it. A DoS attack can be made in several ways. In the most common method, the attacker takes advantage of a vulnerability in an application causing it to malfunction and consequently lead to denial of service.

It’s also very common for cybercriminals to flood the target machine with tons of data or traffic. This overwhelms the machine making it impossible to get service until the error has been solved.

A malicious user may also bombard the system with lots of unnecessary, malformed, and invalid connection requests. As these requests get sorted out, legitimate users are denied services, such as online gaming, email, website, and bank accounts.

DDoS: DoS on a large scale

In the recent past, DoS attacks have evolved into DDoS. In these attacks, hackers synchronize DoS attacks from multiple systems into a single target. Essentially, the target system or program gets attacks from different locations leading to more damage.

How to Defend Your Programs Against DoS Attack

DDoS attacks remain a threat to most organizations due to their complexity. However, DoS attacks can be contained using a couple of modern security technologies, including;

  • Traffic analysis
  • Traffic filtering
  • IP-based prevention
  • Sinkholing

2. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attack

In a MitM (also abbreviated MITM or MIM) attack, the cyber attacker stays undetected between the victim and a host. The goal is to impersonate each of the 2 parties and access their communication. When successfully done, the MIM is can wrongfully obtain critical data or information without the victim or the legitimate host knowing. Knowledge of the attack comes when it’s already too late.

Types of MitM Attacks

There are a couple of ways that cybercriminals can use MITM attacks to infiltrate a device. Here are the most common;  

  • IP spoofing
  • HTTPS spoofing
  • DNS spoofing
  • Wi-Fi eavesdropping
  • SSL stripping
  • SSL hijacking
  • Email hijacking
  • Stealing browser cookies

Steps to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack

The key to avoiding MitM attacks is to keep your programs and systems updated. Here are helpful procedures;

  • Always keep your computers’ operating system and browsers up to date
  • Educate your employees on the need of being wary when clicking suspicious links
  • Avoid using a public network
  • If possible, create a separate Wi-Fi network for your guests
  • Implement two-factor authentication
  • Make use of Virtual Private Network (VPNs) for secure connections

3. Drive-by download attack

In this type of attack, a cybercriminal identifies an insecure website and infects one of the pages with a malicious script. When unsuspecting victims visit the site, the script installs malware into their computer without their consent. The malware creates a backdoor for the hacker to access personal data. In other instances, the victims may be directed to another site under the control of masked hackers.

What makes Drive-by attacks particularly concerning is that the victim doesn’t have to do anything. Simply visiting a legitimate but compromised website is all it takes to have the device hacked.

Drive-by download attackers exploit applications, web browsers, and operating systems with vulnerabilities and security flaws due to a lack of necessary updates.

How to Protect Your Company from Drive-by Download Cyber Attacks

Here are some tricks and tips to protect your application and software from drive-by download attacks as an end-point user; 

  • Remove any unnecessary applications and programs that no longer receive updates.
  • Always ensure that your browser is up to date.
  • Always advise your employees to use the computer’s admin account when installing programs.
  • Be wary when clicking popups when browsing the web.
  • Employ an Ad-blocker to reduce your exposure to infected scripts that may be embedded in online ads.

4. Password Attack

This type of cyberattack is exactly that: a malicious third party trying to hack your passwords to gain access to your system and applications. This is one of the most common attacks because passwords are often reused and are generally easy to crack.

Brute force is among the most common techniques that hackers try to obtain passwords. The cybercriminal gets on a password guessing spree using available relevant clues. The actor may also reuse known passwords obtained from previous data breaches.

A hacker may also fish for passwords by remotely installing malware in the target device. This may be a keylogger or screen scraper, among other tools. The malware may record your keystrokes or take screenshots and share them with the hacker.

How to Defend Yourself from Password Attacks

The key defense against password-based attacks is a strong but easy-to-remember password. Here are some tips on how to beat hackers when formulating your program’s passwords;

  • Make the password as long as possible. A long password of at least 10 characters is somewhat difficult for a malicious third party to decipher.
  • Ensure that the password contains a mix of capital letters, numbers, and other special characters, such as exclamation marks, hyphens, and apostrophes.
  • Avoid reusing the same password between several services. Having a different password for each program or service eliminates a situation where the entire system is under attack.
  • If it’s difficult to remember several passwords, you may want to employ a password manager. These applications will generate random and secure passwords for your services and manage them for you, so you won’t need to memorize anything.