Mode of Attack

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What Does Mode of Attack Mean?

A mode of attack is a method by which hackers seek to access a system. Hackers exploit system vulnerabilities in order to damage data or interrupt computer functions through code manipulation or by injecting new malicious code.


Modes of attack include:

  • Email attachments
  • Buffer overflow
  • Security software
  • Updating processes and associated software
  • SQL vulnerabilities
  • Network protection software

There are many other modes of attack, but these are the most potentially destructive.

A mode of attack may also be called a method of attack.

Techopedia Explains Mode of Attack

The following are historical examples of damaging viruses and their modes of attack:

  • Morris 1988: Exploited email client flaws in Unix Sendmail.
  • Melissa 1999: Forced the shutdown of email gateways by generating excess traffic.
  • VBS/Loveletter 2000: Exploited email address lists and sent large numbers of messages.
  • Code Red 2001: Exploited a buffer overflow and damaged connectivity.
  • Nimda 2001: Generated masses of email to transmit itself, lured users to an infected website and exploited issues with security software.
  • SQL Slammer 2003: Exploited buffer-overflow bug and distributed copies of itself worldwide, causing service denials and Internet slowdown.
  • MS Blaster 2003: Exploited MS, causing major denial-of-service attacks and forcing computer restarts for banks, city governments and thousands of home and corporate users.
  • MyDoom 2004: A virus spread via email attachment. The virus spread when the attachment was opened and exploited address book lists. It also exploited the Kazaa file-sharing service.
  • Sasser 2004: Exploited buffer-overflow and affected transportation. Delta canceled 40 trans-Atlantic flights and Australian trains were forced to halt operations.
  • Witty 2004: Exploited network vulnerabilities by attacking network-protection software. It overwrote hard disks, rendering them unusable.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.