A cyber attack, also known as a cyber attack, is an electronic attack that takes place over a network connection. The attack takes place exclusively in virtual cyber space and is directed against individual computers or entire IT systems. The attacker aims to break through the security barriers of the systems, for example to spy on secret data.
- In cyber attacks, computer science tools are used as weapons with so-called malware or spy software.
- Any computer that is connected to a network – for example the Internet – can theoretically become a victim of a cyber attack.
- Cyber attacks originate both at home and abroad.
Trojans, viruses and worms
In cyber attacks, computer science tools are used as weapons with so-called malware or spy software. These mostly small and inconspicuous programs include Trojans, viruses and worms , among others . They all pursue the same goal, albeit with different approaches: to penetrate a foreign IT system through the security barriers and then either damage it or spy on it.
Any computer that is connected to a network – for example the Internet – can theoretically become a victim of a cyber attack. Even if a PC is equipped with a firewall or anti-virus programs, the attackers will always find security gaps. These gaps usually arise during the development of software and are not noticed by anyone until an attacker exploits them for a cyber attack. The greatest risk, however, is posed by the PC user themselves. Not only a lack of discipline when it comes to necessary software updates is dangerous: Many users also have a preference for free music from obscure sources and funny file attachments in e-mails. Viruses are usually downloaded unconsciously or credit card information is entered in insecure forms.
Origin and Effects of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks originate both at home and abroad. Compared to the mostly technologically highly developed malware programs, however, the defense and tracing options are very limited. In the case of cyber attacks, it is often impossible to determine the identity or the background of the attacker. Criminal, terrorist and intelligence service actors use cyber attacks to cause damage or obtain information. Military operations can also be behind such attacks.
One of the potentially most dangerous cyber attacks to date was uncovered in June 2010 when the computer worm “Stuxnet” became known. The aim of the worm was to sabotage control systems in industrial plants. Computer systems around the world have been affected by security vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system. Due to its complexity, experts suspect that an extraordinarily high development effort was made for Stuxnet. The exact goal of Stuxnet, its developers and clients are still unknown to this day.
National Cyber Defense Center
Cyber attacks have become more and more numerous and complex in recent years – at the same time, the Federal Ministry of the Interior is seeing increasing professionalism. The National Cyber Defense Center (NCAZ) was therefore founded in February 2011. The NCAZ is located at the Federal Office for Information Security and cooperates with the BKA and the Federal Intelligence Service, among others. It is intended to provide prevention, information and early warning against cyber attacks on government and business IT systems.
However, critics complain that the NCAZ does not have enough capacity to be an effective means of countering cyberattacks. There are currently only ten employees working at the NCAZ. Furthermore, the center itself fell victim to a cyber attack shortly after it was founded. The internal investigation report referred to the “first data superpower of German security authorities”.