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Can You Get a Virus from a Website?

Internet security can be a confusing topic. On the one hand, by now, probably most people, certainly most business owners, have grasped that it’s important. On the other hand, while there is plenty of information about how to keep yourself, and your company, safely online, there’s also a lot of misinformation and information which is only partly true.

As a result, people can be left with a lot of unanswered questions, like “can you get hacked by visiting a website”. This article will help to clear up the confusion.

Can you get hacked just by visiting a website?

The question “can you get hacked by visiting a website” seems to be floating around the internet a lot. The short answer to it is “yes”, in principle you can. As is often the case, however, the short answer only tells part of the story. The whole story helps to shed a lot more light on internet security.

Can You Get Hacked by Visiting a Website

The threat of drive-by downloads

Drive-by downloads are downloads that are initiated without the active permission of a person viewing a site. They are still a relatively uncommon way of spreading malware. Drive-by downloads can only succeed, however, if a user allows automatic downloads in general. From an IT security perspective, this is a really bad idea.

So the real answer to the question “can you get hacked just by visiting a website” is “probably not, as long as you take steps to protect yourself”. This is the answer to most questions on IT security. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to the key steps you need to take to protect yourself and your business.

3 Key Steps to Protect yourself from Hacking Website

1. Invest in robust anti-malware protection for your computers, mobile devices, and website

For your computers and mobile devices, the best option is generally a cloud-based, all-in-one anti-malware solution with an integrated firewall. If you choose a product from a reputable provider, you’ll get all the protection you need right out of the box and at a price even SMBs can afford.

Protecting your computers and mobile devices will also protect your website since it will make it harder for hackers to steal any login details which may be stored on the devices you use to connect to the back-end of your website. You should, however, still give your website its protection in the form of a robust website vulnerability scanner.

Different products will have different functionality, but any decent product should have an anti-malware scanner and a web applications firewall. These perform much the same function as their counterparts for regular computers and mobile devices, they are just designed to work on websites instead.

2. Be careful about adverts

These days, the best anti-malware products for computers and mobile devices will come with ad-blocking functionality. This is because adverts have been notorious as a tool for spreading malware. In particular, they are a source of drive-by downloads which see you get hacked just by visiting a website.

The reason why adverts have become so popular with malicious actors is that internet adverts tend to work by agencies buying up advertising spaces on websites and filling them with their own choice of adverts. The agencies are supposed to screen the adverts they accept but the sheer volume of malicious advertising (malvertising) on the internet shows that they aren’t always doing a very good job of it.

On the one hand, this is understandable given that these agencies have to process huge numbers of adverts to turn in a profit. On the other hand, this opens the door for malicious actors to put adverts on reputable websites and essentially leverage their credibility.

As a result, people surfing the internet are turning to ad blockers to protect their security, and people running websites are having to think long and hard about whether or not to accept adverts on their site.

To be quite blunt, although businesses, especially SMBs, often have to look at all possible sources of revenue, the potential income from adverts tends to be below. This, therefore, raises the question of whether it’s worth the reputational and SEO risk of becoming an inadvertent host for malware.

3. Be alert to the dangers of links

As an internet user, if you are using a robust anti-malware product, you will almost certainly be alerted before you click on a dangerous link. The key point to note, however, is that this is not a complete guarantee. You, therefore, need to check before you click. If necessary use a URL decoder or a URL expander.

If you’re running a website, keep an eye on who is backlinking to you and disavow questionable links. They aren’t a security threat but they can negatively impact your SEO.

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