Search Engines Blacklist Fewer Sites, Study Shows

A study conducted by SiteLock showed that search engines are blacklisting fewer sites.

Blacklisting happens when a search engine removes a website from its results due to the presence of a malicious software (malware).

In the second quarter of 2018, SiteLockanalyzed over 6 million websites through the use of malware scanners. SiteLock’s analysis showed that search engines like Google and Bing only blacklisted 17.5% of infected websites with malware in the second quarter of 2018, a 6% decrease from the previous year.

Prevalence of Website Malware

Website visitors and website owners alike rely on search engine warnings. On the part of website visitors, they rely on search engines to flag malicious websites that may leave them unprotected as they surf the web.

According to SiteLock, when website owners rely mainly on search engine warnings and outwardly facing symptoms, they may be missing malware that’s attacking their website visitors.

Even as search engines are blacklisting fewer sites, malicious websites aren’t getting fewer. SiteLock’s study showed that 9% or as many as 1.7 million websites have a major security vulnerability that could allow attackers to embed malware on them. The 3 most common security vulnerabilities on websites identified by SiteLock are SQL injection (SQLi), cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).

SQLi security vulnerability allows attackers to inject malicious database code into website text fields or forms. In an SQL injection attack, an attacker can gain full access to the website’s MySQL database, administrative back end or the entire website. MySQL refers to an open source management system that makes it convenient to add, access and manage content in a website’s database. 

XSS security vulnerability allows attackers to inject malicious code into a web form or web application. In a cross-site scripting attack, the web application is tricked into doing something that it isn’t supposed to do. CSRF, meanwhile, is often used with social engineering – tricking victims. In a cross-site request forgery attack, an attacker forces authenticated users to do unauthorized actions while logged into a vulnerable web application.

SiteLock’s sampled websites showed that 7.19% of sites have an SQLi vulnerability, 1.56% of sites have an XSS vulnerability and .19% of sites have a CSRF vulnerability.

Browser-Based Cryptojacking

SiteLock’s study also found that sampled websites experience an average of 58 attacks per day, with 1% of the sites infected with a malware. The study further found that website attacks are becoming increasingly sneaky and difficult to detect. An example of a symptomless attack on websites is the browser-based cryptojacking, which doubled (2%) in number compared to last year’s number (1%), according to SiteLock’s study. In browser-based cryptojacking, an attacker hijacks a browser to mine a cryptocurrency.

McAfee’s Blockchain Threat Reportshowed that nearly 30,000 websites host the Coinhive code for mining cryptocurrency with or without a user’s consent. This number, according to McAfee Labs, only accounts for non-obfuscated sites, which means that the actual number is likely much higher.

As it stands, Coinhive resides in a gray area of legitimacy. In an ideal world, both the website owner and website visitor must consent to Coinhive’s browser-based cryptocurrency mining. 

A website owner or, in the case of a cyberattack, an attacker may embed the Coinhive code into a website. When a user visits a website with an embedded Coinhive code, the cryptocurrency called “Monero” is then mined from the user’s browser using the computing power or CPU of the website visitor. As of October 21, 2018, the price of one Monero coin is $103.

When the Coinhive code is embedded into the website by a website owner, the cryptomining income goes to the website owner. When the Coinhive code is embedded by a cyberattacker, the cryptomining income goes to the attacker.

Coinhive code made its way to YouTube. In January this year, Trend Microdiscovered that attackers abused Google’s DoubleClick ad platform, enabling the attackers to display ads on YouTube that contain the Coinhive code. YouTube visitors in select countries, including Japan, France, Taiwan, Italy and Spain were affected, with 80% of the affected visitor’s CPU resource was used to mine the cryptocurrency Monero.

“Mining cryptocurrency through ads is a relatively new form of abuse that violates our policies and one that we’ve been monitoring actively,” a Google representative said in a statement. “We enforce our policies through a multi-layered detection system across our platforms which we update as new threats emerge. In this case, the ads were blocked in less than two hours and the malicious actors were quickly removed from our platforms.”

Check Pointranked 3 browser-based cryptocurrency mining scripts Coinhive (ranked #1), Crypto-Loot (ranked #2) and JSEcoin (ranked #4) as “February 2018’s Top 10 ‘Most Wanted’ Malware”.

Prevention

Here are some of the security measures that need to be put in place in order to prevent attackers from installing malware into your website:

Use a Website Malware Scanner

A website malware scanner allows website owners to check their sites for web-based malware.

Keep All Website Applications Up-to-Date

Ensure that your web applications are up-to-date. Using outdated web applications with known security vulnerabilities can leave your website vulnerable to exploitation by cyberattackers.

Use Web Application Firewall (WAF) 

Filtering web traffic via WAF is one of the measures in protecting your website from a successful cyberattack. Your traditional perimeter firewalls don’t protect your website.

Contact ustoday if you need assistance in protecting your website against cyberattacks.