What is a cyber attack?

Have you ever been the victim of a cyber attack? If so you’re not alone – 2015 saw almost 300 million records leaked and over $1 billion stolen in online hacks.

37 million people alone were affected in the Ashley Madison cyber attacks.

And a recent survey from Honeywell, a global technology solution company, found three-quarters (75%) of adults across the globe fear becoming the victim of a cyber attack.

So what’s the problem exactly?

What is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is an attempt by hackers to illegally enter, damage or bring down a computer system or network, often by planting malicious code or data via malicious software (malware).


Are cyber attacks impossible to stop?

The Honeywell survey questioned adults across 10 countries and found over a third (36%) don’t believe it would be possible to stop a cyber attack if terrorists struck.

And more than a third (36%) don’t feel their nation’s leaders are taking the threat of cyber attacks seriously enough to be able to deal with one should their country be targeted.

Respondents in India (61%), China (48%) and Mexico (47%) had the least faith in their governments’ ability to deal with cyber attacks.

Prone to attack

The survey  also asked people which sectors they felt were most vulnerable to attack – almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents thought gas and oil refineries were most susceptible, closely followed by medical, health care, and pharmaceutical sites (64%), and electricity grids (63%).

The UK government estimates cyber security breaches at British energy companies cost around £400 million.

Almost all respondents from India (92%) are fearful of cyber attacks, with the Japanese (89%) not far behind.

No worries, comrade

Conversely, Russians were the least fearful of attack, with just over half of respondents (53%) expressing any level of concern. Australia were just behind with 52%.

Of those that weren’t too concerned about a cyber attack, just under a third (31%) thought the chance of anything happening was actually very low, while a quarter (25%) thought an attack would already have happened if terrorists actually had the capabilities.

Just under a quarter (24%) beleive computer and internet security to be advanced enough to counter any threat, while as many people had faith in government and military intelligence to stop any attacks.

Everyday cyber attacks

While high level cyber attacks are uncommon, cyber attacks – or at least attempted cyber attacks – on individuals are more common.

Among the most common type of cyber attack on the individual are phishing attacks – whereby fraudulent emails are sent to try and trick you into parting with sensitive information – and Trojan horse attacks – whereby innocent-looking computer programs actually contain malware that can scrape sensitive information from your system.