What Is a Computer Network Attack?

    A Computer Network Attack (CNA) is a deliberate action executed with the intention of gaining unauthorized access to a network to manipulate, steal, or destroy private data. Computer network attacks can target a variety of different network components including servers, routers, and endpoint devices.

    How do we differentiate network attacks from various other types of attacks?

    Computer network attacks are different from other types of attacks in that they focus specifically on targeting the infrastructure that comprises the network perimeter. Rather than attacking specific endpoints, or data as malware, ransomware, phishing or social engineering attacks might, computer network attacks seek to leverage vulnerabilities in network protocols, hardware, and software as a means of compromising a network and disrupting its communication channels.

    What are the common types of network attacks?

    There are a range of different ways that an adversary can carry out a computer network attack. The following are some of the most common methods:

    • Denial of Service (DoS) attack: An attacker floods a network with additional traffic to overwhelm it and disrupt its ability to respond to the requests of legitimate users.
    • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack: An attacker carries out coordinated DoS attacks using multiple compromised devices or botnets to amplify disruption.
    • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack: An attacker uses rogue endpoints, ARP spoofing, or DNS spoofing to position themselves between communicating parties, enabling them to intercept communications and manipulate data undetected.
    • Phishing attack: Using deceptive messages or emails, an attack tricks a legitimate user into disclosing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details.
    • SQL injection attack: By exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications, an attacker injects code to manipulate queries between applications and databases, enabling them to execute malicious commands to compromise a network.

    What are the best practices for network protection?

    To protect their networks against the threat of computer network attacks, organizations can employ the following best practices:

    • Implement strong authentication: Organizations can employ strict access controls and multi-factor authentication in conjunction with comprehensive password management policies to prevent unauthorized network access.
    • Conduct regular patching: By regularly carrying out frequent security updates and patching software and firmware, organizations can ensure their security measures address known vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
    • Employ network segmentation: Partitioning networks into smaller segments prevents lateral movement. This helps prevent unauthorized access to critical assets and enables organizations to isolate threats more effectively to defend against them.
    • Leverage data encryption: Utilizing strong encryption protocols ensures that attackers cannot glean sensitive data from intercepted traffic.
    • Engage in continuous monitoring: Organizations can implement security tools like intrusion detection systems and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools to maintain real-time visibility over their entire networks, ensuring swift detection and response to minimize the impact of a network attack should one occur.

    Protecting vital assets through proactive network security

    Computer network attacks are distinct in their focus, targeting the infrastructure upon which networks operate, and this means they have considerable potential for operational disruption. Due to the scale of the threat these attacks present, organizations should strive to do all they can to remain proactive in defending against them and mitigate risks associated with them. By implementing robust security and access controls and segmenting, maintaining, and monitoring their networks comprehensively, organizations can ensure that their networks are secured, both at the perimeter and internally, to ensure they remain resilient against computer network attacks.

    Glossary related terms
    Automated Penetration Testing Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) External Attack Surface Management (EASM) Ransomware Readiness Assessment Red Teaming Security Control Validation Security Validation Vulnerability Management Ethical Hacking Automated Security Active Testing