Top 7 Confirmed Cyber Security Vulnerabilities

Cybercriminals are constantly seeking to take advantage of your cyber security vulnerabilities. Regardless of whether these cybercriminals are motivated by money, politics, prestige, or thrill-seeking, they pose a significant threat to your organization.

Protecting your business against modern cyber threats involves recognizing the different types of vulnerabilities that might put your network at risk—and then securing those weaknesses before an attacker can use them. But before we dive into cyber security vulnerability examples, it is important to establish what a cyber security vulnerability is.

What is a Vulnerability in Computer Security?

Simply put, a cyber security vulnerability is a flaw or weakness in a system or network that could be exploited to cause damage or allow an attacker to manipulate the system.


Note that a “cyber security vulnerability” is different from a “cyber threat.” A cyber threat may involve an outside element, while a cyber security vulnerability exists on the network asset to begin with (such as a computer, database, or even a specific application). Additionally, security vulnerabilities are not usually the result of intentional effort by an attacker—but cybercriminals will leverage such security flaws in their attacks. 


Moreover, the way that a cyber security vulnerability is exploited depends on the nature of the vulnerability and the motives of the attacker. This connection leads some to use the terms “vulnerability” and “threat” interchangeably. 


Cyber security vulnerabilities can arise due to unanticipated interactions of different software programs, system components, or basic flaws in an individual program. It is important to know that vulnerabilities are present in virtually every network—there is no way to identify and address them all because of the incredibly complex nature of modern network architecture. 


However, you can significantly reduce your risk of a data breach or other similar security incidents by knowing some of the most common network vulnerabilities and learning how to address them. Below are a few types of cyber security vulnerability to watch out for.

Security Vulnerability Types

Cyber security vulnerabilities can be divided into numerous types based on different criteria, such as where the vulnerability exists, what caused it, or how it could be exploited. Some broad categories of these vulnerability types include:


  • Network Vulnerabilities:
    • These are issues with a network’s hardware or software that expose it to possible intrusion by an outside party. Examples include insecure Wi-Fi access points and poorly-configured firewalls.
  • Operating System Vulnerabilities:
    • These are vulnerabilities within a particular operating system that hackers may exploit to access or damage an asset on which the OS is installed. Examples include default superuser accounts that may exist in some OS installs and hidden backdoor programs.
  • Human Vulnerabilities:
    • The weakest link in many cyber security architectures is the human element. User errors can easily expose sensitive data, create exploitable access points for attackers, or disrupt systems.
  • Process Vulnerabilities:
    • Some vulnerabilities can be created by specific process controls (or lack thereof). One example would be the use of weak passwords, which may also fall under the umbrella of human vulnerabilities.

Understanding these potential exposure points is important for avoiding a zero-day vulnerability: a security gap that exists from the moment the system or software is released—unknown to the manufacturer or owner—and which hackers can exploit before the vulnerability is discovered and security patches can be added. 

Here are 7 specific examples of security vulnerabilities to help you learn what to look for:

1) Hidden Backdoor Programs

Hidden backdoor programs are an example of an intentionally-created cyber security vulnerability. When a manufacturer of computer components, software, or whole computers installs a program or a bit of code designed to allow a computer to be remotely accessed (typically for diagnostic, configuration, or technical support purposes), that access program is called a backdoor.

When the backdoor is installed into computers without the user’s knowledge, it can be called a hidden backdoor program. Hidden backdoors are an enormous software vulnerability because they make it all too easy for someone with knowledge of the backdoor to illicitly gain access to systems on the affected computer, along with any network the computer or system is connected to.

2) Superuser or Admin Account Privileges

One of the most basic tenets of managing software vulnerabilities is to limit the access privileges of software users. The less information/resources a user can access, the less damage that user account can do if compromised.

However, many organizations fail to control user account access privileges, allowing virtually every user in the network to have so-called “superuser” or administrator-level access. Some computer security configurations are flawed enough to allow unprivileged users to create admin-level user accounts.

Verifying that user account access is restricted to only what each user needs to do their job is crucial for managing cyber security vulnerabilities. Ensuring that newly-created accounts cannot have admin-level access is also important for preventing less-privileged users from simply creating more privileged accounts.

3) Automated Running of Scripts without Malware/Virus Checks

Certain web browsers tend to automatically run “trusted” or “safe” scripts, and some attackers have learned to exploit this common network security vulnerability. By mimicking a trusted piece of code and tricking the browser, cybercriminals can get the browser software to run malware without the knowledge or input of the user, who often wouldn’t know to disable this “feature.’

Keeping employees from visiting untrustworthy websites that would run malware is a good start, but disabling the automatic running of “safe” files is much more reliable—and necessary for compliance with the Center for Internet Security (CIS) AppleOS benchmark.

4) Unknown Security Bugs in Software or Programming Interfaces

Computer software is incredibly complicated. When two or more programs are made to interface with one another, the complexity can only increase. There may be programming issues and conflicts even within a single piece of software that can create security vulnerabilities. So, when two programs are interfaced, this raises the risk of conflicts that create software vulnerabilities.

Programming bugs and unanticipated code interactions rank among the most common cyber security vulnerabilities—and cybercriminals work daily to discover and abuse them. Unfortunately, predicting the creation of these computer system vulnerabilities is nearly impossible because there are virtually no limits to the combinations of software that might be found on a single computer, let alone an entire network.

5) Unencrypted Data on the Network

Unencrypted data on the network can be a severe risk for organizations of all sizes. A lack of encryption on the network may not cause an attack to occur, but it does make it easier for attackers to steal data and put it to use. 

Encryption alone won’t stop an attack, but it can deny attackers the ability to quickly put stolen information to use, rendering it into unintelligible gibberish until it can be decoded. This buys time for consumer protection teams to notify affected parties so they can take identity theft countermeasures to avoid harm.


6) Misconfigurations

Systems, applications, and other pieces of software have configuration settings that determine which features are enabled and which are not. Security misconfigurations occur when those settings are either partially missing or wrongly implemented, and may result from technical issues across components, or from simply leaving default settings unchanged.

Failing to configure software securely can lead to vulnerabilities which allow cybercriminals unauthorized access to systems, applications, data, and even entire networks. 


7) Vulnerable or At-Risk APIs

Cyber security strategies often focus on web applications, but at-risk APIs can be just as damaging if left unsecured against attacks. APIs can be vulnerable to many different kinds of security risks, including DDoS attacks, misused keys, compromised authentication systems, and broken authorizations, just to name a few. 

These are just some examples of the many different cyber security vulnerabilities that your business might be exposed to at any given time. Do you need help managing your security and protecting your business from cybercriminals? Reach out to the team at Compuquip today!



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