Cyberattack: Definition, Motives and Categorisation

Cyberattack is a byproduct of information technology boom.  We are leaving in an era in which most valuable assets are data and information.  Cyberattack in broad view is any illegal attempt to possess or control data in the custody of another person with varied intentions, the main among them being monitory gain and tarnishing image by exposing computer security vulnerabilities.  Cyberattacks are highly sophisticated and dangerous attacks on the information systems. Ransom attacks, phishing, vishing etc are only some of such cyberattacks.

Cyberattack –Definition

Cyberattack is a crime. Any type of offensive exercise targeting computer network, IT infrastructure, and information systems with the objectives of stealing, destroying, manipulating data or hacking into computer systems to exercise control can be considered as cyberattack.  The attacker(s) can be an individual or group of persons, terrorist organizations or even a country. The attacker normally remains anonymous and attack is initiated from a computer targeting another computer or website or database.  The targeted computer network or systems may be maintained by an individual, company, organization or nation.  The basic premise of a cyberattack is deliberate or illegal manipulation of a legitimate data in the custody of others.  It employs malicious codes to compromise integrity and confidentiality of data maintained in another computer or technology network by altering computer programmes, extracting information or corrupting data. 

The three major components of a cyberattack are (a) illegal attack (b) to gain or access or corrupt data (c) maintained in another computer system or computer network

Cyberattack is also known as Computer Network attack (CAN).

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Motives behind cyberattacks

Mainly three factors function as motives behind cyberattacks. They are fear factor, spectacular factor, and vulnerability factor.

The fear factor motive prompts an attacker to target a specific community or region or religion to create fear in an individual or amongst a groups or societies. The group behind the attack claims ownership for such attacks. The possibility of another attack creates an insecurity feeling among the targeted group. 

Result of actual loss and negative publicity are aims of spectacular factor attacks. It forces the targeted entity to suspend the operations thereby leading to losses and negative publicity.  

Vulnerability factor prompts an attacker to expose the extent of vulnerability in the information systems of an organization or government agencies.  It is achieved by ensuring denial of services or by defacing web pages. 

Cyberattack- Broad categorization

Attacks are labelled as cyber campaign, cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism in different contexts. Cyberattack ranges from installing spyware on a PC to destroying the information infrastructure of an entire nation. 

Cyber campaign employs electronic communication technologies such as social media, e-mail, and podcasts to coordinate various types of activism of a large and specific audience through faster and efficient communication.  A cyber campaign is an organized public effort by the usage of digital media to support or oppose the decisions of a target authority.

Cyberwarfare is an internet-based politically motivated attack on official information and information systems of opposing organizations or nations. Cyberwarfare attacks target and disable authorized websites, information infrastructure and vital services and steal or alter confidential and monetary data. It is often carried out through a prolonged cyber campaign or a series of campaigns. 

The purpose of cyberterrorist attack is to cause physical violence or extreme financial harm. Premeditated and politically motivated computer and internet based attacks on information, computer systems and computer programs are used to achieve the purpose. Cyber terrorism often shuts down critical national infrastructure such as power, transportation, government operations etc  to intimidate citizens or lead to civilian revolt.  The end result of both cyberwarfare and cyberterrorism is the same, but the gravity of cyberterrorism is severe. Cyberattack: Techniques, Consequences and Prevention  

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Cyberattack: Definition, Motives and Categorisation
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Cyberattack: Definition, Motives and Categorisation
Cyberattacks are highly sophisticated and dangerous attacks on the information systems. Cyberattack is a byproduct of information technology boom.

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