• Home
  • /Learn
  • /What Are Network Attacks, and How Can You Protect Against Them?
background image


What Are Network Attacks, and How Can You Protect Against Them?


While you already know that cyberattacks can be mitigated by staying on top of the various protocols, exploits, tools, resources, and more that threat actors are utilizing, knowing the specific subsets of cyberattacks sets you ahead of the competition.

To strengthen your organization’s security posture, we've compiled our “What Are…” series: a collection of free, digestible how-tos to share with your team to keep on top of the best anti-cyberattack tactics.

Let’s jump into how to prevent network attacks in today’s edition:

Firstly, What Are Network Attacks?

By definition, a network attack is an attempt to exploit a vulnerability on a network or its systems. This includes servers, firewalls, computers, routers, switches, printers, and more.

The end-goal of a network attack is often to steal, modify, or remove access to valuable data, whether it be temporarily or permanently. Since everything from servers and laptops to cloud services is part of the corporate network, a breach can offer attackers access to a wealth of digital assets. 

The Top Threats to Network Security in 2023 and Beyond

When it comes to your organization’s network security, what network attack-related statistics should you be aware of?

It’s a great question. Let’s break it down:

  • According to a recent report by Techcircle, 52% of malware can use USB drives to bypass network security, making endpoint protection software and employee awareness training more vital than ever before 

  • Servers are a significant target for attackers, providing an attack surface for 90% of recorded security breaches

  • CEOs are targeted 57 times per year on average by network security threats alone

  • Trojans make up over 51% of all malware

  • 82% of data breaches contain a human element

  • 90% of social engineering attacks target employees vs. technology

  • Cloud misconfigurations are leading to significant vulnerabilities, with IBM reporting that cloud misconfigurations account for 15% of initial attack vectors in security breaches

The takeaway? That attacks on networks have become more common in recent years, largely due to the fact that small and mid-sized businesses are not investing in cybersecurity proactively enough. 

Types of Network Attacks

When it comes to strengthening your network security, knowledge is power. Here are the top network security threats that your organization should be aware of–and how to counteract them.

Passive vs. Active Network Security Threats

Before diving into the different subsets of network attacks, we first need to outline the difference between passive and active network security threats.

  • Passive: During a passive attack, attackers fraudulently access a network and monitor/steal sensitive data. However, the attackers do not alter the source data in any manner

  • Active: Under active attack, attackers gain unauthorized access and alter source data by deleting or encrypting it

After gaining unauthorized access to a corporate network, attackers often combine various attack techniques like compromising an endpoint or injecting malware to wreak havoc.

The Solution: Here at Packetlabs, we provide expert-level penetration testing services that are thorough and tailored to you; our ethical hackers help foster a safe digital space where everyone has the right to privacy, cybersecurity, and a thriving future. When it comes to introducing the concept of protecting your organization from network security threats, we can assist you in putting together relevant employee awareness training to ward off baseline threats.

Network Misconfigurations

According to a recent Verizon data breach report, a misconfiguration in network setup accounts for 14% of all breaches

Any setup that violates the configuration policy and weakens the network security posture constitutes network misconfiguration. A security misconfiguration occurs when system or application configuration settings are missing or are incorrectly implemented, thereby permitting unauthorized access. 

Common security misconfigurations can occur as the result of leaving default settings unchanged, unchecked configuration changes, or other technical issues executed either manually or via automation. Other common reasons include:

  • Weak encryption

  • Excess privilege 

  • Misconfigured logging

  • Insecure services

  • And using default settings

These misconfigurations most frequently occur across applications, cloud infrastructure, and, of course, networks. 

The Solution: Since human error is the primary cause of network security misconfigurations, the Packetlabs-approved prevention strategy is to implement continuous employee training and stay proactive in identifying potential vulnerabilities. One of the most streamlined ways to do this is to invest in an accredited PTaaS vendor.

DoS and DDoS Attacks

While hackers exploit network misconfiguration to steal sensitive information, DoS (Denial-of-Service) and DDoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) attacks shut down a network, making it inaccessible to authorized personnel or users. 

DoS disrupts regular traffic by overwhelming the traffic with multiple requests from a single system. In comparison, in a DDoS attack, criminals flood the server's traffic with numerous requests from different systems or devices (usually IoT). It clogs the server and prevents regular traffic from reaching its destination.

The Solution: Particularly in the healthcare sector, DoS and DDoS attacks are on the rise. Regular security assessments are critical for discovering any weaknesses in your network and connected devices. It is necessary to make it a common practice to perform network-related assessments every quarter in order to identify weaknesses or gaps in your organization’s network security.

MiTM Attacks

A MiTM (Man in the Middle) attack is a general attack term that represents a situation when attackers position themselves between a user and an app or server's connection. The motive of such network attacks is to eavesdrop on client-server communication, impersonate one of the parties to change the content in transit, or steal valuable credentials or data. 

Attackers frequently target SaaS businesses, financial apps, e-commerce sites, and other dynamic web apps through HTTPS & IP spoofing, DNS poisoning, and SSL hijacking in order to greatly damage an organization’s network.

The Solution: In 2023, a VPN is one of the best ways to prevent MITM attacks–especially for organizations who primarily work remotely. Especially when combined with other security tools like firewalls, up-to-date antivirus, and robust multi-factor authentication, a VPN is superior to only relying on HTTPS for encryption.

Buffer Overflow Attacks

Generally, a buffer overflow attack involves a threat actor violating programming languages and overwriting the bounds of the buffers they exist on. 

The majority of buffer overflows are caused by the combination of manipulating memory and mistakes regarding the composition or size of data. They rank highly on both the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) and SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors lists. 

The Solution: One of the most straightforward methods of preventing (or mitigating the impact of) buffer overflows is avoiding standard library functions that have not been bounds-checked; this includes gets, scanf, and strcpy. 

Spoofing Attacks

In cybersecurity, an attack that appears like a legitimate email, resource, or contact is called spoofing. They are most commonly conducted via email, where threat actors can send attachments that, when downloaded, auto-install ransomware or other malware that spreads across an organization’s network. 

Oftentimes, the end-goal of a spoofing attack is to access sensitive client information or to threaten the end-user into sending financial credentials.

The Solution: When it comes to spoofing, proactive password changes can be your organization’s most effective defence. If a malicious hacker does obtain credentials via a successful spoofing attempt, they won’t be able to access vital information if passwords are changed regularly. Creating strong passwords and pairing them with multi-factor authentication can be the difference between enormous financial losses and a close call.

Replay Attacks

A replay attack happens when a cybercriminal “eavesdrops” on a secure network communication; from there, they intercept it and proceed to create delays fraudulently or misdirect.

The added danger of replay attacks that many organizations aren’t aware of? Malicious hackers don’t necessarily require advanced skills to decrypt a message after capturing it from the network; this type of network attack could be successful through a simple resend alone.

The Solution: While there are numerous ways to prevent a replay attack, encryption remains one of the best. Since encrypted messages carry "keys" within them, it doesn't matter if the attacker who intercepted the original message can read or decipher said key. All that’s required is to resend both the message and the key together. 

To counteract this, organizations can establish a random session key, which is a code variation that is valid for one transaction only. Simple-yet-effective steps like these to strengthen your security posture is just one of the ways in which our ethical hackers work with organizations–as well as Managed IT Service Providers who may be offering cybersecurity solutions. 

DNS and ARP Poisoning

DNS poisoning is a common hacking technique that manipulates known vulnerabilities within a network’s domain name system (DNS). When completed, threat actors then have the capability to reroute traffic from one site to a fake version of said site. 

ARP poisoning (also known as ARP spoofing), on the other hand, is another type of common cyberattack that is instead carried out over a Local Area Network (LAN). It involves submitting malicious ARP packets to a default gateway on a LAN to change the pairings in its IP to MAC address table. 

Both trigger the interception of often confidential data and can lead to financial and reputation-related damages.

The Solution: For DNS poisoning, one of the most effective countermeasures is consistent patching: it’s recommended to ensure that the DNS server you're using has been patched to the latest version to avoid any breaches.

However, for ARP attacks, it’s advised that organizations use static ARP (like an ARP stop device) to access or process. Using a static ARP protocol is especially crucial if the same router is used for the connection.

Client-Side Attacks

Client-side attacks can occur when a user downloads malicious content: they initiate from the victim, who downloads content from the attacker. This frequently happens due to social engineering tactics like email phishing and smishing. Examples of client-side attacks include the installation of malware on devices and, shortly thereafter, the stealing of financial data via fraudulent websites.

Because client-side attacks are difficult to prevent entirely for organizations that allow Internet access–especially when employees and clients interact in a hybrid or remote setting–they have consistently been hailed as one of the top network security threats since 2021. 

The Solution: Staying vigilant is the most effective way to protect client data. Organizations that do not offer clients (or employees) a safe browsing experience put themselves in danger of costly reputational damage and time-consuming cybersecurity breaches.

Zero-Day Attacks

A zero-day attack (also referred to as Day Zero) is an attack that exploits a potentially serious software security weakness that the vendor or developer may be unaware of. It commonly incorporates adware or spyware. 

Security teams must then scramble to remedy the exploited vulnerability as soon as it is discovered in order to limit the threat to software users. Due to how insidious many zero-day attacks are, they can take weeks–or even months–to detect.

The Solution: Regular penetration testing finds weaknesses others overlook. Simulate real-world, goal-oriented attacks through our variety of cybersecurity solutions

Preventative Measures Against Network Security Threats

Now that you know the top network attacks to keep an eye out for, let’s recap 2023’s top network security threat solutions:

  • Organizations should perform thorough, regular audits to identify network misconfigurations

  • Modern network security tools come with load balancing and ML-based intelligence algorithms to identify artificial traffic flooding to eliminate DoS and DDoS attacks; these should be frequently utilizied

  • It’s recommended to keep software up-to-date and to install the latest anti-malware programs to protect networks from external threats

  • The Packetlabs team advises to use a proxy server to regulate Internet access 

  • Bonus: use Network Address Translation (NAT) to translate internal IP addresses into addresses accessible on public networks to heightened security

While the cost of the average cybercrime is only continuing to grow (hitting a staggering $6 million in Canada in 2023), preventative action for network attacks exists–and our team is here to help make it a reality for your organization.


Network security is critical for any business as it protects its network from unauthorized access, data leakage, and other malicious threats. Enterprises should follow the best practices and strategies to protect their networks from external threats. 

Thorough, periodic penetration testing can reveal the vulnerabilities in your organization’s network. Reach out to our team today to claim your zero-obligation quote. 

Have Questions? Need a Quote?

Contact our team today to see how we can help improve your security posture. Get a no-obligation quote and a copy of our sample report to help you get started.