Top website security threats and malware families

Watch out for these bad buggers

This article was originally published on May 29, 2014. It was updated on August 14, 2018.

You can’t take website security threats seriously enough — especially if your customers entrust you with their credit card information and other sensitive data. From using strong passwords to defending your site against images that attack, taking the important steps necessary to protect your website from security threats isn’t a maybe — it’s a must.

Sucuri’s Hacked Website Report 2017 gives us great insight into the source of website security threats:

“The three most commonly infected CMS platforms were WordPress, Joomla! and Magento. In most instances, the compromises which were analyzed had little, if anything, to do with the core of the CMS application itself but more with its improper deployment, configuration and overall maintenance by the webmasters.”

Notable website security threats highlighted in the report

Part of the research included an analysis of the various infection trends, and specifically, how these trends correlate to malware families. Malware families allow the Sucuri team to better understand an attacker’s tactics and techniques, which ultimately leads to a much better understanding of their intentions.

Types of security threats

  1. Banking Trojans (from Citadel to Zeus) focus on stealing bank account logins.
  2. Backdoor Trojans give hackers admin access and rights to a computer or network.
  3. Keyloggers steal anything that’s typed on a keyboard or touchscreen.
  4. Ransomware (i.e. Cryptolocker) encrypts data then ransoms its release.
  5. Exploit kits give cyber crooks malware upload options.
  6. Bots take control of infected computers to assist in other crimes.
  7. Drive-by downloads help malware.
  8. Advanced Persistent Threats are a type of (generally sophisticated and long-running) attack that usually involves malware.

Types of malware families

  • Backdoor – Files used to reinfect and retain access.
  • Malware – Generic term used for browser-side code to create drive-by downloads. Read “What is malware and how can you protect your WordPress website” to learn more about malware.
  • Spam-SEO – Compromise that targets a website’s SEO.
  • HackTool – Exploit, or DDOS tools, used to attack other sites.
  • Mailer – Spam generating tools designed to abuse server resources.
  • Defaced – Hacks that leave a website’s homepage unusable and promote an unrelated subject (i.e., Hacktivism).
  • Phishing – Used in phishing lures in which attackers attempt to trick users into sharing sensitive information (i.e., login information, credit card data, etc.)

This latest report saw a marginal decline in malware distribution, while Mailer script infections held steady from the previous report. Approximately 44% of all infection cases in 2017 were misused for SEO spam campaigns, which was a 7% increase from the prior year.

“According to the annual trends shown above for the top three threats, we can see a gradual increase in Spam SEO in contrast to a slight decline in Malware. The most interesting aspect of this trend increase is that it suggests attackers are now finding SEO spam a more lucrative attack vector compared to malware.”

Who is protecting your website?

Website security is a growing concern that must be addressed for websites of all sizes. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions available to help protect your website, your data, and your revenue.

GoDaddy’s Website Security offering can help provide your website with no-hassle protection against malware, hacking, and blacklisting. If your website is already compromised, the team of security experts can provide malware removal to get you back to business quickly.

Are you interested in digging into more data and trends? You can download the full Hacked Website Report 2017 at Sucuri.net.


Also published on Medium.

Andrea Rowland
A former small business owner and newspaper journalist, and a published nonfiction author, Andrea Rowland helps craft compelling communications for small businesses and web pros through her work as managing editor of the GoDaddy Garage. When she's not writing or editing, she likes to experiment with baking, travel, read, and dip her toes in the ocean.