Cyber Threats: Definition & Types

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  • 0:04 What is a Cyber Threat?
  • 0:40 Trojans
  • 1:40 Worms
  • 2:42 Phishing
  • 3:13 Unpatched Software
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marcia Wert

Marcia has taught Information technology and Mathematics with a master's degree in IT

Explore types of cyber threats and how they affect us. We cannot guarantee that our private data is secure on the Internet. Too many threats exist out there! Let's see what we face on a daily basis when we log on.

What Is a Cyber Threat?

Cyber threats have existed since 1975 when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the first personal computer, the Apple I. With the advent of personal computers came problems with hackers, people who want to gain unauthorized access to your personal information either for profit or to perform mischievous acts. A cyber threat is deemed any malicious act that attempts to gain access to a computer network without authorization or permission from the owners.

Let's investigate the types of cyber threats that exist and what damage they can accomplish on a network.


The most common type of cyber threat is the trojan, which is a program or coded instructions for a specific task that appears harmless. However, the trojan is in fact trying to secure data for malicious purposes. Have you ever heard on the news about a big business getting attacked by hackers and losing a bunch of customer information? This is sometimes the result of a trojan.

For example, you visit a website and are told that your computer is infected with a computer virus or needs files to be cleaned up. You are prompted to install free software that will clear the infected files, but it might not be as free as you think. The trojan creates a file on your computer - it might be an Adobe or Word document. The program then gathers your keystrokes, or the words you type, and compiles them into that one document. The document is then transmitted to the hacker. Since business organizations compile very sensitive financial data, this can cost you or your company millions.


A worm is a standalone program, one that runs from its own executable, which is a type of program or file. A worm replicates itself onto other computers within a network or a system of computers connected together. It does not need to attach itself to another existing executable file or program like other cyber threats do. Most worm programs are compiled and run as file type .exe, short for 'executable.' The user within the network will click on an executable file in an attachment, thinking it is harmless. It is then that the worm will start to replicate itself.

The latest version of worms are the network variety. These programs populate (attack) multiple different users within a network rather than just one. As you can imagine, worms are hard to detect. Blocking or scanning such attachments is a good security measure as well as training employees to not click on any file attachments that have the .exe extensions.

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