Don’t be a victim of watering hole attacks

21 Jun 2021

blog

With cybercriminals continuously developing new ways to infiltrate networks and steal user data, it is more crucial than ever to stay one step ahead of these perpetrators. Protect yourself from one of the most common methods that cybercriminals use to inject malware into computers: watering hole attacks.

The term “watering hole” colloquially refers to a social gathering place where a particular group of people often go to. As internet users, we all have unique “watering holes” or websites that we visit frequently. A financial analyst, for example, is likely to visit websites related to financial investments and market trends.

In a watering hole attack, cybercriminals observe the watering holes of a specific demographic and infect their most visited websites with malware. Any user who has the misfortune of visiting any of these compromised sites will then have their computers automatically loaded with malware.

The malware used in these attacks usually collects the victim’s personal information and sends it back to the hacker’s server. In extreme cases, the hacker will actively take control of the infected computer.

But how does a cybercriminal choose which websites to hack? With internet tracking tools, hackers find out which websites companies and individual users visit the most. They then attempt to find vulnerabilities in those websites and embed them with malicious software.

Hackers these days are so highly skilled that they can exploit any website using a watering hole attack. In fact, even high-profile organizations like Facebook, Forbes, and the US Department of Labor have fallen prey to this scheme in recent years.

Protect yourself from watering hole attacks by doing the following:

Update your software

Watering hole attacks often exploit security gaps and vulnerabilities to infiltrate computers and networks. By updating all your software and browsers regularly, you can significantly reduce the risk of an attack. Make it a habit to check the software developer’s website for any security patches. Or better yet, hire a managed IT services provider to keep your system up to date.

Watch your network closely

Regularly conduct security checks using your network security tools to detect watering hole attacks. Use tools like intrusion prevention systems that allow you to detect and contain suspicious or malicious network activities before they can cause problems. Meanwhile, bandwidth management software will enable you to observe user behavior and detect abnormalities that could indicate an attack, such as large transfers of information or a high number of downloads.

Hide your online activities

Cybercriminals can create more effective watering hole attacks if they compromise websites only you and your employees frequent. As such, you should hide your online activities with a VPN and your browser’s private browsing feature. Also, block social media sites from your office network, as these are often used as share points of links to infected sites.

Staying informed is one of the best ways to stay protected. As cyberthreats continue to evolve, it pays to be vigilant and aware of the newest threats. Tune in to our blog to find out about the latest developments in security and to get more tips on how to keep your business safe.

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