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What is a Network Attack?

Network attacks and network security threats explained
Network attacks


What is a Network Attack? 

Network attacks are unauthorized actions on the digital assets within an organizational network. Malicious parties usually execute network attacks to alter, destroy, or steal private data. Perpetrators in network attacks tend to target network perimeters to gain access to internal systems. 

There are two main types of network attacks: passive and active. In passive network attacks, malicious parties gain unauthorized access to networks, monitor, and steal private data without making any alterations. Active network attacks involve modifying, encrypting, or damaging data. 

Upon infiltration, malicious parties may leverage other hacking activities, such as malware and endpoint attacks, to attack an organizational network. With more organizations adopting remote working, networks have become more vulnerable to data theft and destruction. 


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Types of Network Attacks 

Modern organizations rely on the internet for communication, and confidential data is often exchanged between networks. Remote accessibility also provides malicious parties with vulnerable targets for data interception. These may violate user privacy settings and compromise devices connected to the internet. 


Network attacks occur in various forms. Enterprises need to ensure that they maintain the highest cybersecurity standards, network security policies, and staff training to safeguard their assets against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. 


DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks involve deploying sprawling networks of botnets — malware-compromised devices linked to the internet. These bombard and overwhelm enterprise servers with high volumes of fraudulent traffic. Malicious attackers may target time-sensitive data, such as that belonging to healthcare institutions, interrupting access to vital patient database records. 

Man-in-the-middle Attacks 

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) network attacks occur when malicious parties intercept traffic conveyed between networks and external data sources or within a network. In most cases, hackers achieve man-in-the-middle attacks via weak security protocols. These enable hackers to convey themselves as a relay or proxy account and manipulate data in real-time transactions. 

Unauthorized Access 

Unauthorized access refers to network attacks where malicious parties gain access to enterprise assets without seeking permission. Such incidences may occur due to weak account password protection, unencrypted networks, insider threats that abuse role privileges, and the exploitation of inactive roles with administrator rights. 

Organizations should prioritize and maintain the least privilege principle to avoid the risks of privilege escalation and unauthorized access. 

SQL Injection 

Unmoderated user data inputs could place organizational networks at risk of SQL injection attacks. Under the network attack method, external parties manipulate forms by submitting malicious codes in place of expected data values. They compromise the network and access sensitive data such as user passwords. 

There are various SQL injection types, such as examining databases to retrieve details on their version and structure and subverting logic on the application layer, disrupting its logic sequences and function. 

Network users can reduce the risks of SQL injection attacks by implementing parameterized queries/prepared statements, which helps verify untrusted data inputs.


Recent Network Attacks 

Network attacks remain a lingering issue for organizations as they transition to remote operations with increased reliance on confidential network communications. Recent network attacks demonstrate that malicious parties may strike at the least expected moment. So, cyber vigilance and security should be a priority across all industries. 

Social Engineering  

According to ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2020 Report, social engineering is the most popular network attack method, with 15 percent of compromised parties reporting the technique as the vehicle of infiltration. Social engineering involves elaborate techniques in deception and trickery techniques — phishing — that leverage users’ trust and emotions to gain access to their private data. 

Advanced Persistent Threats  

Some network attacks may involve advanced persistent threats (APTs) from a team of expert hackers. APT parties will prepare and deploy a complex cyber-attacks program. This exploits multiple network vulnerabilities while remaining undetected by network security measures such as firewalls and antivirus software. 


In ransomware attacks, malicious parties encrypt data access channels while withholding decryption keys, a model that enables hackers to extort affected organizations. Payment channels usually include untraceable cryptocurrency accounts. While cybersecurity authorities discourage paying off malicious parties, some organizations continue to do so as a quick solution in regaining data access. 


Protection from Network Attacks 

Evolving network attacks require a modern and proactive network security solution. Forcepoint’s NGFW (Next Generation Firewall) provides modern organizations with a suite of sophisticated features necessary to detect and respond to the most insidious threats within a network. 

The NGFW’s real-time monitoring interface enables users to react quickly to the slightest network anomalies without delay, with a clear breakdown of ongoing processes. NGFW prioritizes critical networks and devices while identifying the most evasive network attacks that bypass conventional firewalls. 

Additionally, Forcepoint’s next-gen firewall solution safeguards user privacy while operating decryption functions that effectively spot potentially stolen or compromised data within SSL and TLS traffic. 

Avoid camouflaged network attacks with a firewall solution built to close the evasion gap. Experience the Forcepoint method to optimize your enterprise data security standards through its digital transformation. 


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