Exploring what a cyber-attack is…

Cyberspace can be used in a very malicious manner to change or destroy control / operating systems and important infrastructure, or to steal secure military, financial, industrial, and personal data, or even to spread propaganda by extremist groups trying to indoctrinate the unsuspecting public. Often this malicious intent is conducted by groups that have a political or terror agenda so they will use the cyber world to attack websites and networks of their cultural or political enemies. White collar thieves that have become sophisticated hackers will use cyberspace to dupe susceptible and venerable individuals and corporations to steal their money and/or data.

So what is a cyber-attack? A cyber-attack is defined as any offensive act by an insider or outsider that compromises the security expectations of an individual, organization, or nation. Cyber-attacks can be social, political, economic, and cultural in nature. These types of attacks cover a wide range of actions, including installing spyware like viruses, worms, or Trojan Horses that infiltrate systems and networks in order to steal valuable corporate or bank information or purely destructive. These destructive maneuvers are typically designed to destroy the integrity of a corporation or to physically take down a targeted infrastructure like the stock exchange, energy grid, water filtration systems, or other similar entities that would severely cripple the economy of the nation.

Something fairly new has been the attack on social websites. These cyber-attacks are often focused on altering a social media post. The general public believes the authenticity of the post because it is attributed to a well-respected or trusted organization not knowing that the site has been hacked. The most recent cyber-attack was reported by ABC News on January 12, 2015 that a twitter account linked to the U.S. military was hacked to make the site show support for the I.S.I.S cause. This type of hack can have multiple motives, with the first being to make the posting organization or individual seem to be at odds with their typical agenda or stance. Secondly, they are often used to recruit naïve individuals that might be sympathetic with their cause. Such occurrences are occurring more frequently to social media, so beware of the phrase “everything you read on the internet is true.”


ABC News. ABC News Network, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 17Jan. 2015. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/us-military-social-media-accounts-hacked-28172715>.

Gandhi, R.; Sharma, A.; Mahoney, W.; Sousan, W.; Qiuming Zhu; Laplante, P., “Dimensions of Cyber-Attacks: Cultural, Social, Economic, and Political,” Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, vol.30, no.1, pp.28,38, Spring 2011
doi: 10.1109/MTS.2011.940293