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Types of Cyber Threats

Threats & Attacks

Adware (Advertising Supported Software)
Adware is software that automatically displays or downloads advertising material when a user is online, without the user’s permission.  It is considered ‘unwanted’.  It is used to throw advertisements up on a user’s screen, most often within a web browser.  A user can see this many times as a ‘pop-up’ on their screen.  It draws more adware to your PC, which can become a bother, but also bring malware into the open port it creates.


The word Botnet is formed from the words ‘robot’ and ‘network’. Cybercriminals use special Trojan viruses to breach the security of several users’ computers, take control of each computer and organize all of the infected machines into a network of ‘bots’ that the can be remotely managed.


Cryptominers are malicious code designed to highjack idle processing power of a victim’s device and use it to mine cryptocurrency.  Victims are not asked to consent to this activity and may even be unaware that it is happening in the background.  Cryptojacking is in-browser mining using simple code that enables malicious activity to be executed directly in a browser.  Both are associated with extremely high processor activity on devices.


Denial of Service (DoS)
Denial of Service attacks typically flood servers, networks and systems with traffic to overwhelm resources and bandwidth.  The attack is so overwhelming that users are completely unable to access infected servers, networks and systems.  This often targets businesses with the intent to compromise and interrupt for lengthy periods of time.


Formjacking is a newer form of digital information theft.  A hacker attacks commercial websites involved in banking, e-commerce and other activities that collect customer’s personal information.  A site infected with formjacking code captures user data as it is entered into a form. Once the user submits it to an online order form, the code collects the payment information and transmits it to the data thieves.  Like a card skimmer, a formjacked website does its work without disrupting a legitimate transaction.  The sale with go through as expected, even as the user’s data is transferred to the hackers.  Criminals use viruses to insert formjacking code into commercial websites.


Human Nature
People are the biggest threats to cyber security.  This vulnerability not only comes from employees, but vendors, customers or anyone else who has access to a network, or IT-related systems.  Sometimes it can come from using an easy-to-guess password, falling for a phishing email or even a targeted social engineering attack. 


Internet of Things Insecurities
There is new malware starting to bring smart devices down.  The malware ruins smart devices by gaining access to and destroying a device’s storage, eliminating its firewall and removing its network configuration.  While IoT devices have wireless connectivity, some don’t have the type of classic user interface or computing power of PCs, for example.  They often lack proper cyber security controls.  Users tend to install them with default passwords and forget about them.  Many IoT malware look to leverage devices for cryptocurrency mining, creating a botnet capable of generating a profit of untraceable, digital currency, etc.


Malware is a general term used to cover multiple software-based threats, i.e., viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, adware and spyware.  These malicious threats are used to steal, encrypt, delete, alter and hijack user information and compromise core computing functions.


Trojan Horse
A Trojan horse or “Trojan” is a type of malware that is often disguised as legitimate software. Trojans can be employed by cyber-thieves and hackers trying to gain access to users' systems. Users are typically tricked by some form of social engineering into loading and executing Trojans on their systems. Once activated, Trojans can enable cyber-criminals to spy on a user, steal sensitive data, and gain backdoor access to a user’s systems. These actions can include deleting, blocking, modifying and copying data and or disrupting the performance of computers or computer networks.  Types of Trojan Horse attacks:

  • Remote Access Trojans
  • Data Sending Trojans
  • Destructive Trojans
  • Proxy Trojans
  • FTP Trojans
  • Security Software Disabler Trojans
  • Denial of Services (DoS) Trojans


Malvertising is the use of online advertising to spread malware. It is criminally controlled advertisements within internet connected programs.  It typically involves injecting malicious or malware-laden advertisements into legitimate online advertising networks and webpages. It will distribute malware and other threats with little to no user interaction required.  When a user clicks on them, they release the malware which is downloaded to the user’s system.  Typically, it installs a small piece of code which sends the user’s computer to criminal command and control servers.   The server scans the computer for its location and the software installed on it, then chooses which malware it determines is most effective to send to it.


Man in the Middle (MITM)
MITM is also knows as ‘eavesdropping’ attacks.  These attacks happen when a hacker inserts themselves in the middle of a two-party transaction.  Some MITM attacks alter the communication between the parties, by taking over conversation between them.  These commonly happen on unsecured wi-fi networks or on malware breached devices.  They disrupt the web traffic and pull data from it for their own use.  Types of MITM attacks:

  • IP Spoofing
  • DNS Spoofing
  • HTTPS Spoofing
  • Email Hijacking
  • Wi-Fi Eavesdropping
  • SSL Hijacking
  • Stealing Browser Cookies


Phishing is an email used to distribute malicious links and attachments.  Cyber criminals want to gain access to user login credentials and other confidential information.  Some forms of phishing:

  • General Phishing
  • Spear Phishing
  • CEO Fraud
  • Smishing
  • Vishing
  • Clone Phishing
  • Domain Spoofing
  • URL Phishing
  • Watering Hole Phishing
  • Evil Twin Phishing


Spear Phishing
Spear phishing is an email or electronic communications scam targeted towards a specific individual, organization or business. Often, it is intended to steal data for malicious purposes.  However, cybercriminals may also intend to install malware on a targeted user’s computer. An email arrives, apparently from a trustworthy source but, instead, it leads the recipient to a false website full of malware.


Email spam is unsolicited bulk email.  Unsolicited means that the recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent.  Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages with identical content.  It is spam if it is both unsolicited and bulk.


Software that is designed to gather data from a computer or other device and forward it to a third party without the consent or knowledge of the user.  This often includes collecting confidential data such as passwords, PINs, credit card numbers, monitoring keyword strokes, tracking browsing habits and harvesting email addresses.  In addition, it tends to affect network performance by slowing down systems.  Following are categories of Spyware:

  • Trojans
  • Adware
  • Tracking Cookies
  • System Monitors


Ransomware is a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.  Ransomware attacks cause downtime, data loss, possible intellectual property theft, and in certain industries an attack is considered a data breach.  Crypto-ransomware encrypts certain file types on infected systems and forces users to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods to get a decrypt key.


Social Engineering
Social engineering, in the context of information security, is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

  • Phishing
  • Spear Phishing
  • CEO Fraud
  • Typosquatting
  • Pretexting
  • Water-Holing
  • Diversion Theft
  • Baiting
  • Quid Pro Quo
  • Tailgating
  • Honeytrap
  • Rogue


Risks that can enable Cyber Threats to breach systems:

  • Human Nature
  • Inadequate Patch Management
  • Outdated Hardware and Software
  • Poor Digital Certificate Management
  • Removable Media

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and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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