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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Website Attack Attempts Rose by 69% in 2018

Millions of websites have been compromised, but the most likely malware isn't cyptomining: it's quietly stealing files and redirecting traffic, a new Sitelock report shows.

Websites suffer an average of 62 serious attack threats per day -- an average of 376 million per day, according to a new study of more than 6 million websites worldwide.

"Even though the numbers seems a little small, 62 attacks is still a pretty big number," says Monique Becenti, product and channel marketing specialist at SiteLock, which published the study in a report today.

Those attacks weren't concentrated in ransomware and cryptomining malware, but in such "classic" techniques as backdoors, shells, and JavaScript files. The JavaScript attacks are notable because they tend not to directly attack the website, but to hijack visitor traffic and send them to alternate, illegitimate destinations.

The report points out both the type of stealth attack seen in 2018 and the risk factors for compromise, factors that boil down to site complexity, site popularity, and site composition, or the software or CMS used to build the site.

According to the report, sites built with one of the three leading CMS platforms — Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress — are from 1.6 to 2.2 time more likely to be infected with malware than the average site. The issue, though, is not as simple as a problem with vulnerable CMS platforms, according to Becenti.

"Core files are starting to update a lot faster, as far as checking the security vulnerabilities," she says of the major CMS platforms. "However, one of the primary culprits I feel we have to be worried about are plug-ins and schemes."

Becenti notes that the three major CMS platforms are much more diligent than they once were about patching vulnerabilities and sending updates in a timely fashion. The hundreds or thousands of third-party plug-ins that add functionality to the core platforms, though, are where many vulnerabilities are introduced — and where many of those vulnerabilities remain for months or years without being patched.

"Website attack attempts per day grew by 59% from January 2018 to December 2018," according to the report.

In terms of the total number of sites surveyed, the report says that approximately 1% of all sites are infected with malware at any given time — making roughly 17.6 million websites worldwide struggling with an infection every day. And of those infected sites, 50% had at least one backdoor, 48% had at least one shell script, 47% had at least one file-hacker, and 46% had at least one malicious evaluation request.

And SiteLock said cryptomining malware was found on just 2% of infected sites.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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