Cyber Attacks: The Attacker’s Target

Before a cyberattack, there must be planning. As long as cyber-attacks remain a crime where attribution is a major concern, planning will always be a necessary phase. It is in the planning phase that the attack process and methodology are decided; attack responsibilities are also assigned to stakeholders during this phase.
As important as the planning of any cyberattack is, it can never be more important than the target of the attack. Cyber target identification comes before any form of planning. It is the target that determines how an attack would be executed.
So today, we will be reviewing the required checks that persuade cyber attackers towards a target, making them prospective victims of a potential cyber attack. There are many reasons why individuals, corporate organizations and government establishment falls victim of a cyber attack.
The first reason why organizations and individuals will become the target of a cyber-based attack is because of “Who or what they are”. An organization will be attacked because of their organizational goals, objectives, and services that they offer to the public. The type of service an organization offers can cause the organization to become a target for an attack. A financial organization will be a target for financial attacks before they offer financial services. An energy corporation will fall victim to SCADA based attack because they offer energy services.
For individuals, they may become a target of a cyber attack because of who they are. A celebrity will become the target of cybercriminals for attacks such as cyberbullying, identity theft, or even cyber harassment just because they are celebrities. This is why you realize that a celebrity has multiple social media accounts that are associated with them on thesame social media platform, but in the real sense, they only have and operate a single account.
Moving forward, another reason why corporate organizations or individuals will become a target in an attack is because of what they have. In this case, we are talking about what they have on their system or servers. The type of documents or data that they store on their system will determine whether they become a target or not, but especially because of what they have, cybercriminals will try to hacking into the target’s systems or infrastructures to retrieve such documents or data. An example of cyber attacks implemented as a result of what people or organizations have residing in their systems is ransomware attacks, social engineering attacks, or hacking.
Usually, when a victim becomes a target due to what they have, the attacker does not want to damage the infrastructure that holds the data or documents but may go as far as retrieving documents such as trade secret and business strategies or damaging the data residing in the infrastructure. They can also make the data not accessible until certain conditions are met.
What you know is the third reason to become a target of a cyberattack. In this case, it focuses more on the knowledge that is not residing on the system or infrastructure. An IT Manager may become a target because all password to all servers resides in the head of the IT Manager. The type of attack induced by the reasons includes eavesdropping on a conversation, sniffing network packets, or logging of keyboard stroke which is also known as a keylogger attack. Man in the Middle attack also falls under an attack for what you know.
These kinds of attacks are more of realtime attacks because information and data must be captured in realtime. It also implements a social engineering practice which uses technics to manipulates the extraction of specific kind of information out from the target.
While the first three attacker’s target may not be due to any action taken by the target, the next reason for an attacker’s target is because of what the target did. They may have taken a decision that may not have gone down well with others. For corporate organizations, they may have terminated an employee’s appointment unjustly making it an easy decision for the disengaged employee to collaborate with external persons to carry out an attack on the organization. What the target did also aligns with the IT department configuring some or all of the infrastructures in an organization wrongly. An attack induced by this reason is what is known as an insider’s threat attack. A practical example is the case of anonymous aligning with #EndSars protesters because of what they saw Nigeria Police did to the citizens of Nigeria. Automatically the government became a target of anonymous.
As careful as what the target had done can be, what the target did not do can be even more dangerous than what the target did. When a target fails to do what it is expected of them to do, it may cause them (the target) to become a target of an attack. The target is expected to change the default password but did not change it, the target is expected to buy a license and original Operation System but that didn’t happen, the target is expected to check and block all vulnerability, but again that didn’t happen. They are also expected to install security programs such as antivirus, internet security, endpoint security, etc and implement cyber defense infrastructure but again they did not. That said, doing the wrong thing can be as deadly as not doing at all as long as cyberattacks are concerned.
There are situations that warrant multiple reasons to focus on a target. So the more the reasons the more important the target will be on the site of the cybercriminals. As an organization (Private & Public) sector and individuals, you should put it at the back of their mind that who/what is the target, what the target have in their custody, what the target knows, what the target did and did not do can all be combined together why the target will become a potential victim.
That said looking at all these reasons, you should know that nobody or organization is beyond fall a target in cyberspace, not even you.