Various Cyber Threats

A cybersecurity threat is a malicious and deliberate attack by an individual or organization to gain unauthorized access to another individual’s or organization’s network to damage, disrupt, or steal IT assets, computer networks, intellectual property, or any other form of sensitive data.


Types of Cybersecurity Threats:

Types of Cybersecurity threat

Malware is defined as a software designed to perform an unwanted illegal act via the computer network. It could be also defined as software with malicious intent. 

Malware can be classified based on how they get executed, how they spread, and/or what they do. Some of them are discussed below.

  • Virus: A program that can infect other programs by modifying them to include a possible evolved copy of itself.
  • Worms: Disseminated through computer networks, unlike viruses, computer worms are malicious programs that copy themselves from system to system, rather than infiltrating legitimate files.
  • Trojans: Trojan or trojan horse is a program that generally impairs the security of a system. Trojans are used to create back-doors (a program that allows outside access into a secure network) on computers belonging to a secure network so that a hacker can have access to the secure network.
  • Hoax: An e-mail that warns the user of a certain system that is harming the computer. The message thereafter instructs the user to run a procedure (most often in the form of a download) to correct the harming system. When this program is run, it invades the system and deletes an important file. 
  • Spyware: Invades a computer and, as its name implies, monitors a user’s activities without consent. Spywares are usually forwarded through unsuspecting e-mails with bonafide e-mail i.ds. Spyware continues to infect millions of computers globally.


  • Recently, few “State-sponsored” Chinese hacker groups targeted various Indian power centres. However, these groups have been thwarted after government cyber agencies warned it about their activities.
  • Recently, Australia had to stave off its biggest cyber threat with the attack targeting everything from public utilities to education and health infrastructure. India has also been a victim to many such cyber-attacks in the past like WannaCry, Petya ransomware, Mirai botnet etc.
  • Towards the end of 2020, a major cyberattacks headlined ‘SolarWinds’ —was believed to have been sponsored from Russia. It involved data breaches across several wings of the U.S. government, including defence, energy and state.
  • Thousands of U.S. organisations were hacked in early 2021 in an unusually aggressive cyberattack, by a Chinese group Hafnium, which had exploited serious flaws in Microsoft’s software, thus gaining remote control over affected systems.
  • Another Russia-backed group, Nobellium, next launched a phishing attack on 3,000 e-mail accounts, targeting USAID and several other organisations.
  • Cyber warfare is computer- or network-based conflict involving politically motivated attacks by a nation-state on another nation-state. In these types of attacks, nation-state actors attempt to disrupt the activities of organizations or nation-states, especially for strategic or military purposes and cyber espionage.
  • It involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation’s computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks.



  • In 2020, the United States (US) department of defence (DoD) exposed an information-stealing malware, SlothfulMedia, which they said was being used to launch cyberattacks against targets in India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Russia and Ukraine.
  • The most notorious example is that of the misinformation campaign conducted by Russian bots during the 2016 US presidential elections.
  • Societally, sowing disinformation through social media disinformation is also cyberwarfare. Russia has been particularly savvy in this field but recently, China has stepped up its game.
  • Intellectual property (IP) rights are another avenue of strategic competition — in 2014, the US justice department indicted five Chinese military hackers and accused them of stealing secrets from US Steel, JP Morgan, Alcoa, Westinghouse Electrical Co., and United Steelworkers.
  • Military cyberattacks are perhaps the most associated with cyberwarfare — the “Sandworm Team”, a group associated with Russian intelligence, has conducted attacks on government sectors in the US, Ukraine, Poland, and on the European Union and NATO.
  • A well-documented cyberattack occurred in 2010 when a malware “Stuxnet” that was designed to damage Iran’s nuclear capability by making Iranian scientists and government think there were a series of internal engineering mishaps at their enrichment facility.
  • In an increasingly digital and connected world, supply chain viruses and hackers could be the new face of cyber warfare.In the last week of 2020, news came in that Vietnam had been found to be the target of a sophisticated supply chain cyber-attack.
  • In the second week of December 2020, the technology world was rocked by the news of a “supply chain” cyber-attack that had managed to infiltrate the networks and systems of multiple US government departments, tech majors like Microsoft and Cisco, and hundreds of big and small companies around the world working in sensitive areas.
  • These are termed “supply chain” cyber-attacks because instead of attacking a target, the hackers rely on infecting one of its suppliers instead to gain access.
  • Cyberterrorism is any premeditated, politically motivated attack against information systems, programs and data that results in violence.
  • Cyber-terrorism can also be understood as “the use of computer network tools to shut down critical national infrastructures (such as energy, transportation, government operations) or to coerce or intimidate a government or civilian population.”

Cost of cyber-attacks

  • There are many cyber-attacks that go undetected and unreported as well.
  • The losses emanate from operational disruptions, loss of sensitive information and designs, customer churn and impact on brand image, as well as increase in legal claims and insurance premium.

Limited awareness

  • Many companies do not treat importance of cyber security as a strategic agenda, but rather as a small issue for their IT departments.
  • There is limited awareness of the need for specialized and customized industry-specific cyber security measures which are significantly different from IT security and need to be adapted by the industry.
  • Recently, it has been reported that Pegasus, the malicious software, has allegedly been used to secretly monitor and spy on an extensive host of public figures in India.
  • As per claims, at least a 1,000 Indian phone numbers are in a list of potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus spywaresold by Israeli company the NSO Group to “vetted governments” with the approval of the Israeli government.


What is a zero-click attack?

A zero-click attack helps spyware like Pegasus gain control over a device without human interaction or human error. 

So, all awareness about how to avoid a phishing attack or which links not to click are pointless if the target is the system itself.



  • In India, too, attacks have been happening with increasing frequency.
  • India’s national airline Air India has said a cyber-attack on its data servers affected about 4.5 million customers around the world. The breach was first reported to the company in February 2021.
  • Nearly 1.16 million cases of cyberattacks were reported in 2020, up nearly three times from 2019 and more than 20 times compared to 2016, according to government data. On an average, 3,137 cyber security-related issues were reported every day in 2020.
  • More than 4,000 fraudulent portals emerged within two months, and on a typical day in April 2020, Google alone blocked 240 million spam messages and 18 million phishing scams.
  • In 2016, banks had reportedly announced a leak of personal information of 3.2 million debit cards.
  • In 2018, Pune-based Cosmos Bank lost Rs 94 crore in a malware attack. In 2019, the Kudankulam plant was attacked using malware.

  • Not so long ago, social media was awash with the ‘Bois locker room’ incident that circulated obscene images of under-age girls via leaked chats from an exclusive group.
  • With this as our frame of reference, it is time we pause and acknowledge that ‘Bois locker room’ is not an isolated incident of young boys enabling rape culture, but instead is symptomatic of our societal mentality.
  • Reports of increased cyber bullying and cyber harassment have escalated over the past few years with the NCRB data showing 6,030 cybercrimes registered by women in the year 2018.
  • We need a targeted legislation that criminalises cyber Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). In the absence of any special legislation, both the IT Act and the IPC are interim solutions inadequate to contain the magnitude of problems.
  • The reason for this is that the IPC predates the digital era while the IT Act was formulated to enhance e-commerce as opposed to sensitising a hitherto unequal space.
  • Hence, devising a statute that exclusively addresses cyber abuse, harassment and violence faced by women will go a long way in changing the existing discourse on safety and equality.
  • Disinformation is an attack and compromise of our cognitive being. Here the information ecosystem is manipulated to create social discord, increase polarisation, and in some cases, influence the outcome of an election.
  • Disinformation attacks use manipulated, miscontextualised, misappropriated information.
  • Historically, the industry has treated these attacks independently, deployed different countermeasures, and even have separate teams working in silos to protect and defend against these attacks.
  • For example, QAnon spread false information claiming that the U.S. 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, and conspiracy theorists burned down 5G towers because they believed it caused the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • COVID-19 disinformation campaigns had prevented people from wearing masks, using potentially dangerous alternative cures, and not getting vaccinated.
  • Balancing the rights of speech with the dangers of disinformation is a challenge for policymakers and regulators.
  • Cognitive hacking is a cyberattack that seeks to manipulate the perception of people by exploiting their psychological vulnerabilities.
  • Cognitive hacking is a threat from disinformation.
  • Cognitive hacking attack attempts to change the target audience’s thoughts and actions, galvanise societies and disrupt harmony using disinformation.
  • It exploits cognitive biases and shapes people by perpetuating their prejudices.
  • The goal is to manipulate the way people perceive reality.
  • The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, is a prime example of the effects of cognitive hacking.
  • Revolutions throughout history have used cognitive hacking techniques to overthrow governments and change society.
  • The need to be aware of the nature of the cyber threat and take adequate precautionary measures, has become extremely vital.
  • New technologies such as artificial intelligence, Machine learning and quantum computing, also present new opportunities.
  • Nations that are adequately prepared and have made rapid progress in artificial intelligence and quantum computing have a clear advantage over states that lag behind in these fields.
  • Pressure also needs to be put on officials in the public domain to carry out regular vulnerability assessments and create necessary awareness of the growing cyber threat.
  • It is time that cybersecurity as a specialised discipline becomes an integral component of any IT syllabus being taught within our university systems as well as outside.
  • Coordination among CERTs of different countries.
  • Ensure that vulnerable sections of our society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals.
  • Understanding and implementing the global best practices of the cyber space.
  • Need for India to move on from IT security to cyber security.
  • Organisations that are hit by cyber-attacks must inform law enforcement immediately instead of worrying about their reputations.
  • Important to have crisis management plans so that it helps to react in a given situation.
  • A dedicated industry forum for cyber security should be set up to develop trusted indigenous solutions to check cyber-attacks.