Asymmetric Cyberattack

What Does Asymmetric Cyberattack Mean?

An asymmetric cyberattack is a situation where an attacker has a disproportionate effect on a victim through targeting vulnerabilities and taking advantage of the victim's weaknesses. Asymmetric cyberattacks often involve using few resources to take down a larger network or system through targeted digital attacks.


An asymmetric cyberattack is also known as asymmetric cyberwarfare.

Techopedia Explains Asymmetric Cyberattack

By their nature, most cyberattacks are asymmetric cyberattacks. Security professionals talk about guarding against vulnerabilities and loopholes – many cyberattacks, including different types of malware and Trojan horses, get in through a network perimeter without using many resources – with strategy and smart implementation. For instance, the Syrian Electronic Army’s infiltration of U.S. Marine Corps recruiting systems and other systems is an often-cited example of asymmetric cyberwarfare: With a spearphishing attack, hackers from the Syrian group got access to the U.S. Marines' site and added propaganda asking Marines to "refuse their orders." According to the U.S. military, the effects of the hack were not severe, but as a matter of principle, the Americans called for the hackers' extradition to face trial.

Many other examples of asymmetric cyberwarfare show how a "less mighty" party can win on the internet. Any time a lone wolf hacker or some small group does damage to a significant government or corporate system, that would represent an asymmetric cyberattack. In order to guard against these types of efficient cyberattacks, companies invest in software updates, patches and all sorts of proprietary security software. However, asymmetric cyberwarfare continues to be a very important threat on the horizon.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

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.