Network Vulnerabilities 101: Types and Prevention Methods

Learn how Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication combats data breaches, weak passwords, and phishing attacks.

A network vulnerability is a flaw or weakness in your IT processes that could allow someone to gain access, steal data, or otherwise cause you harm. 

There are several types of vulnerabilities in network security. Some of them you probably know quite well. Others might surprise you. 

We'll walk you through a list of common network vulnerabilities, and we'll end with a few steps to follow if you think you're experiencing a consequence of a vulnerability. 

6 types of vulnerabilities in network security 

Think of vulnerabilities as chinks in your armor. Some are large enough for you to spot quickly, and others might elude your attention for weeks, months, or even years. 

When you’re surveying your security landscape for potential problems, consider this list of common network vulnerabilities. 

1. Devices

Hackers could use anything connected to your network against you, especially if devices aren't authorized or managed properly.

Your security landscape probably includes:

  • Connected phones 
  • Computers
  • Routers
  • Servers 

Do users secure these devices with strong passwords? Are they locked when unattended? Does the IT team know about all of them, or do employees use their own phones and computers?

2. Firewalls 

You can place a layer of protection between the open web and your server with a firewall. But don't rely on that tool blindly. If you misconfigure it, hackers could see all of your traffic or take it over.

That's just what happened to Capital One Financial in 2019. Hackers discovered that the company's firewall wasn't set up properly, and they stole personal information linked to 106 million people before the financial institution spotted the problem. 

3. IoT tools

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that are connected to the internet, even if they don't have a keyboard or a mouse. Everything from doorbells to refrigerators to exercise machines is part of the IoT, and they all could cause a breach. 

IoT devices often come with preset security measures that are tough to change, and the items may have firmware you can't update. The longer they stay connected, the easier they are to hack. 

For example, in 2017, hackers gained access to a casino database through a fish tank thermometer connected to the internet.

4. Malware 

Malicious computer programs run on your servers and do things you never intend to do. Malware is a major threat for companies, and it can take many forms.

Scareware, for example, entices clicks by convincing victims that they need to download files or click on buttons. And ransomware attacks follow, in which victims must pay a fee to regain file access. 

Some forms of malware deploy via social engineering. Hackers use something they know (such as a victim's name) or something they guess (such as something a victim needs) to entice a click. Spear-phishing attacks work like this, and hackers research their victims before outreach begins.

5. Operating systems and software

Connected devices, including computers and phones, lean on sophisticated programs that run in the background. Developers update code as new threats emerge. But if your staff never updates the software, that protection never gets to their devices. And if the operating systems aren't configured properly at setup, even more problems could appear. 

In 2021, for example, a telecom firm experienced a breach that started with an old file-sharing program. The company's customers, suppliers, and partners were all impacted by the breach. 

6. Wireless access

A well-administered Wi-Fi system gives your employees access throughout your building or campus. In an evil-twin attack, hackers make a realistic-looking copy of a valid Wi-Fi system. Your employees log on without knowing they’re working with a hacker. 

Are you dealing with a network vulnerability?

Hitchy performance, unexpected actions, or strange notes from customers could indicate that hackers have exploited a vulnerability in your systems. What should you do next?

These are things you should not do:

  • Disconnect the machine. The IT team needs to monitor what's happening in real time. 
  • Reboot. Some programs don't restart along with the computer. The IT team needs to monitor the program. 
  • Fight back. Even if you think you're an exceptional programmer, don't try to hack back. 

The best way to ensure that you don't endure an attack based on a vulnerability is to test your system regularly. Find out more about how penetration testing works on our blog.


Capital One Suffers Massive Data Breach Due to Misconfigured Firewall. (July 2019). Long Island Business News. 

How a Fish Tank Helped Hack a Casino. (July 2017). The Washington Post. 

The Rise of Misconfiguration and Supply Chain Vulnerabilities. (February 2021). Hackerone. 

How to Tell if Your System Is Compromised. The University of Tennessee.