What are Virus Sites?
In terms of volume, email is still the most popular way to spread malware. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future. Cyberattackers are, however, always changing their tactics. Right now, they are moving away from email and adopting other approaches to try to spread their malware. All companies, even SMBs, need to be aware of this. Here is some guidance to help.
Email isn’t what it used to be.
In the early days of networking, getting an email was exciting. These days, it’s generally not. It is, however, a whole lot safer. That’s largely due to cloud-based email scanners. Cloud-based email scanners are kept regularly updated by their vendors. This means that they adapt to emerging threats with the minimum delay. Cloud-based email scanners also take the storage and processing load off the local devices. This makes for more efficient working and a better experience for the users.
That’s all good news for legitimate netizens but it’s bad news for malicious actors. They have much less chance of getting their email past a scanner and in front of a human user who might be tricked into activating the malware. Sadly, this hasn’t caused them to give up. It’s caused them to branch out into new directions such as social media messages, text messages, malvertising, and virus sites.
Social media messages
Social media messages are very similar to email in a lot of ways. There are, however, three significant differences between social media messages and regular email. The first is that the effectiveness with which social media messages are scanned is variable, to put it mildly. The second is that people tend to be in a very “relaxed mode” when they read them. In other words, they are more likely to have their guard down.
The third is that it can be much easier to conceal malicious URLs without arousing suspicion. This is because short links are fairly standard in social-media messages whereas they stand out in a regular email. Out of all these reasons, however, the first two are arguably the most important.
Modern text messages effectively have much the same capabilities as email. This means that it is now possible to use them to send malicious links. What's more, it's entirely common for people to send short links in text messages, generally for entirely legitimate reasons.
In principle, malicious links should easily be detected by a capable scanner. In practice, mobile devices are still not always as well-protected as they need to be. Fortunately, people are increasingly coming to realize the importance of protecting their mobile devices, so hopefully, this route will soon become much more difficult.
Malvertising is the strategy of buying legitimate advertising space and using it to show malicious adverts. Sometimes the adverts themselves contain malware that can be activated just through being displayed on the screen. More commonly, if the users click on the adverts, they will find themselves taken to virus sites.
The success of malvertising is variable. Malicious adverts only have a chance to work if they can get in front of viewers and that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Adverts used to be a relatively easy way for website owners to make a bit of extra money. This meant that website owners would generally allow them unless there was a specific reason not to.
These days, however, the decision as to whether or not to allow adverts on a site is not so clear cut. They can still bring in revenue, but they can also create all kinds of problems. Firstly, adverts are just about guaranteed to slow page-load speeds and that can impact your search engine rankings.
Secondly, adverts are generally run through third-party agencies. The sites themselves have little control over what is shown, but they are the ones who have to deal with the reputational risk of unsuitable adverts.
Thirdly, adverts are widely regarded as an intrusive nuisance and a lot of people now use ad blockers partly for convenience and partly for safety. All in all, therefore, malvertising can work very well when it has a chance to do so, but that chance is getting smaller.
Virus sites are basically sites that trick users into visiting them and then take advantage of that visit to infect their device with malware. This is easiest if users allow automatic downloads, which is why you should never do so. All downloads should be both actively authorized and scanned before they are allowed to reach your local device.
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