The increasing dependencies of modern society on information and computers networks (both in private and public sectors, including military) has led to new terms like cyber attack and cyberwarfare.
CNSS Instruction No. 4009 define a cyber attack as:
An attack can be active or passive.
An attack can be perpetrated by an insider or from outside the organization;
The term "attack" relates to some other basic security terms as shown in the following diagram:
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - + + - - - - + + - - - - - - - - - - -+ | An Attack: | |Counter- | | A System Resource: | | i.e., A Threat Action | | measure | | Target of the Attack | | +----------+ | | | | +-----------------+ | | | Attacker |<==================||<========= | | | | i.e., | Passive | | | | | Vulnerability | | | | A Threat |<=================>||<========> | | | | Agent | or Active | | | | +-------|||-------+ | | +----------+ Attack | | | | VVV | | | | | | Threat Consequences | + - - - - - - - - - - - - + + - - - - + + - - - - - - - - - - -+
A resource (both physical or logical), called an asset, can have one or more vulnerabilities that can be exploited by a threat agent in a threat action. As a result, the confidentiality, integrity or availability of resources may be compromised. Potentially, the damage may extend to resources in addition to the one initially identified as vulnerable, including further resources of the organization, and the resources of other involved parties (customers, suppliers).
The attack can be active when it attempts to alter system resources or affect their operation: so it compromises integrity or availability. A "passive attack" attempts to learn or make use of information from the system but does not affect system resources: so it compromises confidentiality.
A threat is a potential for violation of security, which exists when there is a circumstance, capability, action, or event that could breach security and cause harm. That is, a threat is a possible danger that might exploit a vulnerability. A threat can be either "intentional" (i.e., intelligent; e.g., an individual cracker or a criminal organization) or "accidental" (e.g., the possibility of a computer malfunctioning, or the possibility of an "act of God" such as an earthquake, a fire, or a tornado).
A set of policies concerned with information security management, the information security management systems (ISMS), has been developed to manage, according to risk management principles, the countermeasures in order to accomplish to a security strategy set up following rules and regulations applicable in a country.
An attack should led to a security incident i.e. a security event that involves a security violation. In other words, a security-relevant system event in which the system's security policy is disobeyed or otherwise breached.
In order to detect attacks, a number of countermeasures can be set up at organizational, procedural and technical levels. Computer emergency response team, information technology security audit and intrusion detection system are example of these.
An attack usually is perpetrated by someone with bad intentions: black hatted attacks falls in this category, while other perform penetration testing on an organization information system to find out if all foreseen controls are in place.
The attacks can be classified according to their origin: i.e. if it is conducted using one or more computers: in the last case is called a distributed attack. Botnets are used to conduct distributed attacks.
Other classifications are according to the procedures used or the type of vulnerabilities exploited: attacks can be concentrated on network mechanisms or host features.
Some attacks are physical: i.e. theft or damage of computers and other equipment. Others are attempts to force changes in the logic used by computers or network protocols in order to achieve unforeseen (by the original designer) result but useful for the attacker. Software used to for logical attacks on computers is called malware.
The following is a partial short list of attacks:
A whole industry is working trying to minimize the likelihood and the consequence of an information attack.
For a partial list see: Computer security software companies.
They offer different products and services, aimed at:
Many organization are trying to classify vulnerability and their consequence: the most famous vulnerability database is the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures.
Computer emergency response teams are set up by government and large organization to handle computer security incidents.
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