Understanding the Phases of a Cyberattack


If you have strong IT security protocols, it is easy to develop a false sense of invincibility when it comes to cyberattacks and malware. The truth is, however, that cybercrime attacks are ubiquitous. Since 2017, business detections of malware have increased by 79%, largely due to advancements in spyware, miners, backdoors, and information stealers. While hiring an IT Managed Services Provider is largely the best way to improve security, understanding the lifecycle of a cyberattack can better prepare business owners and other stakeholders to discover threats before they unfold into something much worse. Let’s take a closer look at the different phases of a cyberattack:

Before a Cyberattack

Hackers often love to test the proverbial waters of their victim’s network before plunging into an attack. They may engage in either or both of the following tactics:

  • Active Reconnaissance: Directly interacting with your company’s systems in an attempt to gather data. Attackers may use techniques like manual testing and automated scanning to test the network.
  • Passive Reconnaissance: Indirectly gathering information without interacting with your network. They may use tools like Wireshark and OS fingerprinting to carry out their objectives.

Once attackers have gathered enough information, they typically tailor malware to exploit any weaknesses they discover in a company’s system. 

During This Stage:

  • Ensure your company has robust security protocols that are updated regularly
  • Enforce a mandatory update policy
  • Double-check that any antivirus software is up-to-date and running on all machines
  • Run regular employee training sessions around responsible device usage, passwords, ransomware prevention, and other important safety protocols
  • Check that your data backups are active, in-tact, and easy for the appropriate personnel to access

During a Cyberattack

Unfortunately, most statistics suggest that the majority of businesses will be subject to an active cyber threat at some point during their existence. During a cyberattack, criminals breach a company’s outer layers of security. Often, the information attackers glean during targeted phishing attempts helps them slip through your network’s barriers unnoticed. Once inside, hackers often carry out malicious attacks to corrupt or steal data. In the case of ransomware, attackers steal your data, only returning it if your company is willing to pay a hefty ransom – this is why having a solid data backup protocol prior to an active attack is vital.

During This Stage:

  • Enact relevant security policies like your Disaster Recovery Plan
  • Contain the attack and disable remote access to your networks
  • Identify and analyze the threat and its impact on your systems and data

After a Cyberattack

Once the breach has been contained, managing the fallout from the attack will be essential for keeping the trust of your customers. Ensure that you have patched any security loopholes, and activate your data backups to get your company back up and running. Next, work with your PR and/or communications team to determine the best way to inform external stakeholders about the attack. Be honest, and provide a line of communication for any questions or concerns customers may have. The way a business responds to and recovers from an attack is essential to its health and longevity.

During this Stage:

  • Report the attack to the relevant authorities
  • Recover through data backups, if possible
  • Communicate with managers and employees about the attack
  • If you have cyber liability insurance, create a claim with your carrier
  • Contact necessary customers and stakeholders to inform them of damages


The steps a company takes prior to sustaining an active attack are quintessential in safeguarding its long-term success – in fact, one sobering statistic suggests that 94% of businesses who experience total data loss without the ability to recover from a backup do not survive. Working with a Managed IT Services Provider like Qnectus can help equip your company with strong security protocols, ironclad backup procedures, and a disaster recovery plan that will make it hard for cybercriminals to damage your business. Contact Qnectus today to start a conversation.

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