Any program or file that has been created with the intention of harming a website is called web malware. They can harm a website in many ways like stealing sensitive information, causing the availability to fluctuate, redirecting visitors to some kind of phishing or unrelated website, hijacking the website all the way or even infecting its visitors with another malware.
There are lots of types of web malware each created to cause a different type of harm.
it’s really important to protect a website from these malware and if already infected, reacting fast is very important because just like when we leave any of our disease untreated it becomes more severe and hard to cure, the same way with passing time impact of malware becomes more severe and hard to remove
How does the Malware affect your website?
The above graph shows the traffic of a website and red arrow indicates the point when it got attacked by malware:
Malware can decrease the traffic on website significantly by hijacking and tempering the SEO of a website
But sometimes the analytics can show a rapid increase in traffic after the attack like in the graph shown above. The increased traffic is actually of no benefit to the website because what happens is that users might be clicking on the URL of your website but after clicking they are redirected to some other website.
What is happening is that you might get a lot of clicks but no legitimate traffic inside the website
Malware can destroy a certain website’s reputation by infecting it and its users with malware.
Imagine going to an e-commerce site to buy a pair of socks, you place your order, and wait for your parcel to arrive. But weeks later you realize that your money has been stolen, you didn’t receive your order and your credit card information is now in the hands of the attacker.
Would you go on that site ever again? Probably not!
The store you were trying to shop from was legit. However, their website was attacked through malware, which caused you financial loss and resulted in a bad reputation for that store.
- We all hate websites that throw rounds of unwanted popup ads, right?
Well that also happens because of such web malwares!
- We also have seen websites where whenever you try to do something you keep getting redirected to various websites.
These web malware can do almost anything as long as they are providing any kind of benefit to the creator or operator of that malware.
How does malware get on the website in the first place?
1) Weak access control
Web Access point or access page is a function through which one can get access to the website. If the access page of the website is not properly secured, attackers can use a variety of ways to gain access like manipulating or changing metadata and cookies to gain some benefit or simply by guessing the password
With these methods, an attacker can get unauthorized access to the server or admin panel of the content management system, or hosting control panel. With these accesses, the attacker can almost do anything malicious
So it’s really important to properly harden the security of website’s access control and also not to give any unnecessary access. Because with the increase in access points, points of possible attack also increase
2) Outdated software can increase vulnerability
It’s important to keep the primary and third-party components of your website up to date because attackers are constantly working to create malware for their attacks. They usually create malware with specific code to attack specific software and frequent software updates will give them less time to design malware to infect the new update.
If your website is running on outdated components then your website is more likely to be attacked.
But the worst thing is that when components are too old then these attacks can happen automatedly, the attackers create a script to autorun on all websites with an outdated software to find possible targets for their malware.
3) Third-party integration
It’s common nowadays to use third-party integrations or plugins for more features and cheaper alternatives but they come with a few major risks. If those third-party components get infected by malware there is not much you can do, as you don’t have any control over them. it’s also likely that you might not have any information about how that third-party integration, that you used on your website, works. This can put you in a very weird position, where your website is under attack but there isn’t much you can do about it. You then have to ask the owner of that third-party script to clean their plugin from malware.
4) Tempered third party components
Illegitimate downloads and installation of premium components for free are convenient, but pirated software might be tampered with to include malicious functionality.
5) Server level infections
Sometimes the server hosting the website can itself get infected which might result in the website to behave maliciously or suffer the damage even though the actual files of the website are not infected.
6) Cross-site contamination
Now the domain of a website is always unique but several websites can be hosted on the same server, this is quite common for big agencies who have several projects running simultaneously. So, they might host many websites on a single server or a shared host.
This means even if the websites are for totally different purposes, they still might not have any separation on the server level. Now, if an attacker successfully infects one site then the attacker can automatically infect other sites that are under the same server.
So to avoid this you don’t have to configure only your website but also your hosting server too.
7) Social engineering
The attackers can try to trick web developers or site owners to install malware or they can ask to download something but while navigating, they will redirect the site owner to a phishing website, which looks exactly like the original website but with malicious intentions, from there the website credentials can be stolen.
Different types of website malwares
Now in the broader sense, I can assume that you are now familiar with what web malware is and how it impacts a website or web server. But there are separate malwares each designed to do each specific thing. There are virtually hundreds of types of malware but there are a few common one to watch out for:
- Conditional redirects
- SEO spam
- E-commerce malware
This is one of the most financially damaging types of malware as it can provide direct financial gain to the attacker. They are designed to infect websites and servers to encrypt files on it, and when the files are encrypted the operator of this malware demands payment in exchange for the key that can decrypt those lost files.
Ransomware alone has caused a loss of an estimated $20 Billion in just 2021, and the year on year increase is quite significant.
These are malwares that are responsible for unwanted redirects on other websites. Attackers try to add malicious code to the website to cause redirection. Usually, the users are directed to a destination full of malware so the attacker can gain further benefits by infecting the user, or a phishing site which looks exactly like the original while the original website gets blocklisted.
whenever you search anything on google you see hundreds of websites related to your search query, now they are meant to be ranked according to the quality of the website and relatability to your desired search, but unfortunately these rankings also sometimes become the victim of a malware attack where the attackers alter the ranking by using the website for Black Hat SEO. The attacker can hijack your website, to create spam pages on your site and gain more traffic from their. Attackers use this to promote their content with minimal effort and cost.
They are designed to enter a site and delete or alter the files on it. Viruses are commonly used with the intention of creating hurdles in an operation.
They are destructive programs that look just like a genuine application, they can open a backdoor for the malware operator or theft to access your data without your permission.
Adware is software that can download automatically into your system and it will show you unwanted ads also called spam. Many Companies use adware for cheap marketing.
Online shopping is becoming one of the most common forms of shopping nowadays but they are also not free of risk from these malware attacks. Once infecting a website they can negatively affect that e-commerce site itself and also the users who visit that website to order products.
We exist in a world where there are almost Two Billion websites in the world, attackers are becoming more advanced with their capabilities as well.