Attacks/Breaches

6/19/2018
08:45 PM
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Most Websites and Web Apps No Match for Attack Barrage

The average website is attacked 50 times per day, with small businesses especially vulnerable.

No matter how large or small, websites and web applications are under a constant barrage of attacks. Two new studies out today put a finer point on the numbers, showing just how frequently attacks hit the average website and how this constant pressure is yielding a huge number of compromised websites and web apps.

According to the Sitelock Website Security Insider Q1 2018 report, the average website today is attacked 50 times per day, with the vast majority of attacks coming through automated means. The study shows that 88% of traffic filtered by firewalls is from bad bots seeking to compromise sites. 

By casting a very wide and automated net, attackers who hit their marks even a slim percentage of the time stand to compromise a huge volume of sites. The study shows that about 1% of sampled sites studied by analysts are infected with malware. That means at any given moment, 18.7 million sites around the world are infected by some form of malware.

"Based on the numbers we've seen, it has become clear that no website is too small to hack," says Jessica Ortega, a web security research analyst at SiteLock. "As cybercriminals become more sophisticated and continue to hone their craft, small businesses will need to keep up by taking a proactive, holistic approach to website security." 

In addition to studying websites, the SiteLock study surveyed small business owners about their attitudes with regard to website security and found that they may not understand the severity of the danger. Approximately 42% of the respondents said their biggest website security fear is defacement — but most security veterans know this kind of attack is the least of a website's worries. The study shows that only about 18% of site infections have anything to do with that. More common are backdoor files being placed on the site — 44% of the time — or filehacker files designed to modify or create additional malicious files, at 49% of the time.

And, of course, the 1% incidence rate of infection is only an average. Plenty of risk factors can greatly increase infection rates. For example, WordPress sites are two times more likely to be infected than non-CMS sites, according to SiteLock. 

In a separate study released today by Positive Technologies, 96% of all web applications were found to have some form of vulnerability that could be turned against their users — with one in two apps vulnerable to unauthorized access. In addition, approximately 44% of web apps today place users' personal data at risk of theft, with 70% vulnerable to leaks of information critical to the business. 

"Web application security is still poor and, despite increasing awareness of the risks, is still not being prioritized enough in the development process," says Leigh-Anne Galloway, cybersecurity resilience lead at Positive Technologies. "Most of these issues could have been prevented entirely by implementing secure development practices, including code audits from the start and throughout."

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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