What is a Cyberattack? [Definition and Cases]

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Maxym Chekalov
Written by
Maxym Chekalov

Updated · Sep 29, 2023

Maxym Chekalov
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Iva Marinova
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Iva Marinova
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Cyberattack is a malicious action by cybercriminals who invade devices and online platforms. 

According to recent statistics, an estimated 2,200 cyberattacks happen daily amounts to 1 cyberattack every 39 seconds. 

Read on for more detailed discussions of cyberattacks. 

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Cyberattacks are events where hackers try to sabotage or steal the victim's data
  • As the digital era progresses, cyberattacks continue to rise. 
  • There are various cyberattacks that cybercriminals use, including malware, phishing, etc. 
  • Cyberattacks' effects can be financial, emotional, and even mental aspects. 
  • The digital world already witnessed massive cyberattacks throughout the year. 

What is a Cyberattack?

A cyber attack is any instance in which a hacker or group of hackers attempts to penetrate a computer system, network, or other device to cause damage.

The targets of these attacks range from ordinary online users to corporations and governments. They come in a variety of forms and cause harm in various ways. Statistics also show that 45% of businesses that experience ransomware pay the asked-for ransom.

With the increasing number of attacks, the average cost of a data breach will be $4.45 million worldwide in 2023. This number includes all the costs of tracking down the threats, the downtime and lost revenue, and all the long-term reputational damages. 

Learn more about the types of cyberattacks in the next section.

A hacker uses a single laptop to hack a network


A cyberattack hacks computers to alter, disable, and destroy files or applications. It often asks for ransoms for corrupted files. This attack does not have any specific targets. It can attack individual users, organizations, and even the government. 

Types of Cyberattacks

There has been an increase in cyber attacks in recent years, with 38% in 2022 compared to 2021. To lessen their risk of falling victim to one of the many types of cyberattacks, users must be aware of them. 

The table below shows some types of cyberattacks. 

Types of Cyberattacks


Malware is malicious software created to harm the network or the server. 

It is the most common type of cyberattack, with various elements such as ransomware, trojans, and spyware. 

DoS Attacks

Denial-of-service attacks result in users’ inability to access email, websites, and online accounts. 

Most DoS attacks don’t delete data or demand ransoms; they cost users time, money, and other resources. 


This attack uses email, social media, or texts to trick users into sharing personal information. 

It also entices users to download malicious software to spy on the device. 


Spoofing is when cybercriminals disguise their malware as coming from a known or trusted source. 

This is used to trick users into engaging with and accessing their system. 

Supply Chain Attack

This targets a trusted third-party vendor whose software is vital to the supply chain.  

A supply chain attack injects malicious codes into the leading software to infect all the users. 

Although there are several types of cyberattacks, they all have the intention of stealing, altering, and causing trouble. 

Continue reading to learn more about the effects of cyberattacks.

Effects of a Cyberattack

Cyberattacks have affected various organizations and users differently. These effects can range from financial losses to reputational damages. The rise of these attacks can lead to more legal implications due to cyberattacks that could threaten national security. 

Here are some common effects of a cyberattack:

Reputational Damage

This is an expected effect of cyberattacks, especially on businesses and organizations. Recovering the reputational damage can be long and expensive. 

Customers and investors would lose faith in the company due to the attack since the security system was not adequately protected. 

🎉Fun Fact:

In 2013, Target had a massive breach in its in-store payment system. This cybercrime has stolen 40 million credit and debit card numbers. After a month, the company confirmed that over 70 million customers had lost their personal information. This data breach led to Target’s CEO's resignation. 

Monetary Loss

Cyberattacks are typically conducted for financial gain. Hackers usually aim to steal money by breaking into a company's online banking system.  

The average data breach cost $4.35 million in 2022, which is 2.6% higher compared to 2021's $4.24 million. As cyberattacks continue to rise, financial losses also increase. 

Operation Disruption

It would take time for businesses to resolve the cyberattack on their systems as the attack would disrupt the victim's operation. 

Hacking the plan to disrupt the process is often used by "hacktivists” to disarray the flow of the government's operational system. 

🎉Fun Fact:

“Hacktivist Indonesia” claimed they hacked over 12,000 Indian government websites. They also attack countries like America, China, and Ukraine. Their goal is to disrupt the operation of the government sites.

Change in business practices

Businesses that were the targets of these attacks would alter how they operated. They would re-organize their methods of collecting and storing customer information.

Large corporations are typically the ones who suffer from this. Many businesses stopped retaining their customers' personal information, like credit card details, especially concerning online stores. 

💡Did You Know?

One of the companies that experienced this is Yahoo, which suffered the most significant data breach in 2013. With more than 8 billion accounts infected. The company forced users to change passwords and invalidated all past cookies and unencrypted security questions. 

Leakage of Personal Photos and Files

Affected individuals often experience emotional distress and fear as their data is exposed to cybercriminals. In the US, more than 420 million individuals have experienced the leakage of their personal information. 

The following section will discuss the most prominent global cyberattack cases. 

Most Significant Cyberattack Cases in the World

These attacks impact people worldwide because they are the most well-known global occurrences. They are written in history for users to learn more about these attacks. 

Continue reading to learn more.

DoD and NASA Hack

In 2000, the NASA systems were attacked.  It is one of the oldest attacks, yet this has had a massive impact on the US government.

A teenage hacker broke into the DoD and NASA security networks and managed to install backdoor access and download software worth $1.7 million. Although the attack has caused no personal data leakage, the NASA network has been offline for 21 days. 

🎉Fun Fact:

Jonathan James, a 15-year-old boy, was the first young hacker to be imprisoned. He spent six months in a juvenile detention facility. 

Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack

An oil pipeline system was attacked in 2021. This led to the most significant attack on oil infrastructure in the US. The company was forced to shut down the pipeline after this attack. 

Colonial Pipeline Company worked with the FBI and paid the hacker a ransom of $4.4 million via Bitcoin. Even with the paid ransom, the company experienced multiple shutdowns. 

Yahoo Attacks

Yahoo experienced the most significant data breach in 2013 and 2014. More than 8 billion accounts were infected with the attack. 

4 Russian hackers conducted this, although only one was arrested.  This became the most significant breach in the history of the Internet. 

✅Pro Tip:

Cyberattacks happen daily; attacks occur every 39 seconds. With these attacks happening almost every minute,  it is crucial to keep yourself safe. 

Practical Tips To Keep Yourself Safe From Cyberattacks

Given the frequency of cyberattacks, there are many sensible precautions you may take. Learn more about how to protect yourself from these attacks.

Updated Software

Updated software lessens the risk of attack by malicious software. It strengthens your system by having the fundamentals to fight infections. 

By not updating your system, you would leave your device vulnerable. The vulnerability would make it easier for cybercriminals to exploit and access the device. 

Regular software updates would maintain the security of your system. It also improves the device's performance, enhancing the software’s functionality. 

📈Market Trend:

By 2024, the industry for cybersecurity is expected to be worth $300 billion. The need for security products and solutions is rising due to the continual increase in cybercrimes.

Avoid Using Common Passwords

Passwords are essential to all users' digital accounts. This serves as the key to your online security. Using a common password can give way to cyber criminals. 

Users should avoid using their names, birthdays, and family members’ names. The hackers could crack this without any hassle. 

✅Pro Tip:

The primary line of protection for online security is a password. So, always use strong and unusual combinations when creating one.

This post lets you get password ideas for your online accounts and social media sites.

Install a Firewall

Putting a firewall in your network is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from cyber-attacks. This would be a barrier to controlling all incoming and outgoing data. 

A firewall is crucial to securing a user’s digital world. It also prevents all unauthorized access, which also blocks malicious software. 

Control Access to the Network

Your network can be physically attacked by plugging a flash drive with infected files, which can infect your entire network.

Keep everyone from accessing your central control room. Only a few people must have control over who can access your network.  

💡Did You Know?

Cyberattacks are the fifth-highest-ranked threat in 2020. Read this Techjury article on the increasing number of internet attacks worldwide for more detailed information.

Final Thought

A cyberattack is a malicious attempt by hackers to breach an organization's information system. It is used to compromise digital devices, networks, and systems.  

The different types of cyberattacks serve other purposes depending on the hacker’s intent. It can be with the intention of financial gain, as a protest, or just out of curiosity. 

The evolving technology has made cyberattacks prominent and one of the biggest threats in the digital world. It targets individuals to steal and disrupt their systems. 

👍Helpful Article:

Suppose you want to know the number of global hacking incidents each year; this article will give you in-depth details.


What is the most common cause of cyberattacks?

Malware, or malicious software, is the most common cause of cyberattacks. Users are often deceived by files online where suspicious malware is installed. 

What is the difference between a cyberattack and a cyber incident?

A cyber incident indicates that something in your network has a problem. In contrast, a cyber attack is an incident with malicious intent. 

Can cyberattacks be an act of war?

According to the US Department of Defense, a cyberattack is only considered an act of war if it causes physical damage. 


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