A Guide to Protecting Your Website from 8 Common Website Attacks

One of the most significant changes the 2020 pandemic brought upon us was the shift to remote work.

As businesses and freelancers continue to exist in this “new normal,” cybersecurity should be a top focus instead of a task that’s always relegated to the back burner.

However, as much as businesses should take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, most companies only think of security after a cyber attack.

To help you take preventive measures, we’ll explain the most common website attacks and how to protect yourself from them.

Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:

Causes for Common Website Attacks

Types of Web Attacks

How To Protect Your Website From Common Website Attacks

Final Thoughts: How To Protect Your Website From 8 Types of Web Attacks

Causes for Common Website Attacks

Understanding how and where cybercriminals can enter your website is crucial for protecting yourself from common website attacks.

Here are some security risks that can result in your website getting compromised:

1. Sensitive Data Exposure

Sensitive data exposure, or data leaks, occurs when sensitive information is intentionally or unintentionally uploaded. Data leaks are different from data breaches, a cybercrime in which an attacker hacks and steals information.

Data leaks can occur due to multiple reasons, such as weak or no encryption, website glitches, software flaws, or human error. You can prevent weak encryption by installing an SSL certificate or using a strong password.

2. Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration is another cause of common website attacks. It is the failure to implement security controls for a server or web application. It can also refer to the inaccurate implementation of security controls, putting your website and data at risk.

Examples of these include:

  • Leaving unnecessary ports open
  • Allowing unnecessary services to run
  • Keeping unnecessary accounts

3. Insecure Deserialization

Insecure deserialization, also known as object injection vulnerability, occurs when user-controllable data is parsed and reconstructed, creating a fully functional replica of the original object.

That allows hackers to manipulate the new object by injecting it with harmful code.

The deserialization process can initiate an attack, and many deserialization-based attacks are completed before the deserialization process is finished. A typical example of data that can be deserialized is user input, which should not be deserialized at all.

A distributed denial of service attack can occur as a result of insecure deserialization.

4. Components With Known Vulnerabilities

There are vulnerable website components that cyberattackers can exploit with automated tools. These include the login page, input fields, WordPress core, themes and plugins for websites.

5. Insufficient Logging and Monitoring

Attackers are always on the lookout for opportunities to access your website. As a form of defense, websites should conduct regular audits to detect unauthorized entities.

However, there are instances wherein a security-critical event is not logged off properly, and the system isn’t monitored. That is known as insufficient logging and monitoring.

6. Social Engineering

Social engineering refers to manipulative activities designed to get confidential information, thereby bypassing security infrastructure. Phishing is a common form of social engineering.

Types of Web Attacks

  1. Cross-site scripting (XSS)
  2. Distributed denial of service (DDoS)
  3. Malware
  4. Injection attacks
  5. Phishing
  6. Brute force attack
  7. Zero-day attack
  8. Man-in-the-middle attack

These are the most common types of web attacks. Let’s go over each one of them.

1. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

What it is:

Common website attacks can target either users or the web application. Cross-site scripting (XSS) is the type of web attack that targets users.

Hackers insert malicious scripts into a trusted website with the intent of stealing users’ identities through cookies, session tokens, and other information.

How it happens:

XSS attacks occur when hackers inject client-side scripts into webpages, usually through a vulnerable point.

A malicious code is sent to the user once they visit the website or click on the link. The victim’s browser then executes the malicious script. It is harmful because at this point, browsers have no way of knowing whether they should trust a script. Thus, it executes it.

2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Common website attacks Distributed denial of service

What it is:

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) is a common website attack that aims to disrupt regular server traffic by overwhelming the target with internet traffic.

How it happens:

A DDoS attack requires attackers to gain control of a network. Computers on the network are then infected with malware that turns them into bots that the attacker controls.

The attacker controls the bot network (called a botnet) by sending instructions via remote control. The result of a DDoS attack is an overflow server or network error. It’s challenging to separate traffic generated by DDoS from regular traffic.

3. Malware

What it is:

Malware, a portmanteau of the words malicious and software, is one of the most common types of web attacks.

It’s an umbrella term that refers to software that damages computers, websites, web servers, or networks. It includes spyware, ransomware, driveby downloads, trojan horses, adware, and more.

How it happens:

Malware can enter your website or computer through a link or email or when you download or install infected software.

Once installed, it quickly replicates and can spread to other computers in the network. An indicator of malware is slow PC response or unusually high internet data consumption.

Common website attacks: Types of malware

4. Injection Attacks

Common website attacks injection attacks

What it is:

An injection attack is a common website attack on database-driven websites. Attackers insert a piece of code directly into the website or server database. Attackers use this to steal money, change data, or erase web activity.

Injection attacks took the top spot in the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) 2021 list of security risks. SQL injections (SQLI) are the most well-known injection attack.

How it happens:

Hackers find a vulnerable website field during an SQL injection attack and insert content via an SQL query (called malicious payload). Once the query is inserted into the website, the attacker executes malicious commands on the database.

5. Phishing

Common website attacks Phishing

What it is:

Phishing is the practice of sending emails that seem to be from a trusted source to gain personal information or get the user to do something. Social engineering is involved in this type of web attack. Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing.

How it happens:

Attackers send an email containing an attachment with malware or a link to an illegal website that may trick you into downloading malware or ask for your personal information.

Example of Phishing Email
Image Source

6. Brute Force Attacks

Common website attacks Brute force attacks

What it is:

Brute force attacks, also known as password attacks, are one of the simplest and most common website attacks. It is easily preventable but can pose a problem when hackers possess a powerful computing engine or gain control over an extensive network of computers.

How it happens:

Hackers try different combinations of usernames and passwords to gain entry into an account.

7. Zero-Day Attacks

Common website attacks Zero-day attacks

What it is:

Zero-day attacks usually happen to websites with recently discovered security vulnerabilities. The term ‘zero-day’ refers to the fact that the web developer has just learned of the flaw, which means they have had zero days to fix it.

How it happens:

Hackers attack a website with issues that developers haven’t had the chance to identify or fix.

8. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Common website attacks Man-in-the-middle attacks

What it is:

Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks happen when hackers insert themselves in the communication between a server and a client.

How it happens:

There are several ways man-in-the-middle attacks can occur. Examples include phishing, malware, email or session hijacking, spoofing (IP, DNS, or HTTPS), WiFi eavesdropping or stealing browser cookies.

How To Protect Your Website From Common Website Attacks

When you’re working from home and are your own IT team, you can’t dismiss the need for security. Even if you’re not techy, there are several things you can do to amp up WordPress security and protect your website from common website attacks.

1. Update Your WordPress Core, Themes and Plugins.

An easy way to secure your website is to update your WordPress core, themes and plugins.

According to Sucuri’s 2019 Website Threat Report, 56% of security vulnerabilities were caused by an outdated WordPress core, while obsolete plugins caused 44%. An updated website could have easily prevented both.

2. Install a Security Plugin.

Did you know that more than 70% of known WordPress vulnerabilities could have been prevented had WordPress security plugins been installed?

Some of the most popular security plugins are Sucuri and Wordfence, whose functions include:

  • Scanning for and blocking security threats.
  • Implementing a web application firewall (WAF).
  • Monitoring DNS changes.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to scan your WordPress website regularly.

3. Choose a Reliable Web Host.

Did you know that your choice of web host affects website security?

When you sign up for a WordPress plan from reputable hosting companies like Bluehost, you get access to security features such as SSL certificates and secure shell (SSH) access.

If you need more from your web host, you can get managed WordPress hosting. Besides 24/7 customer and technical support, you get additional security features such as:

4. Back Up Your Website.

Regularly backing up your website is another proactive measure that can protect you from common website attacks.

There are several plugins you can use to back up your website. However, managed WordPress hosting plans like Bluehost’s include automated website backups.

5. Protect Your Passwords.

Besides creating strong passwords, you can add another layer of protection from brute force attacks by:

  • Limiting your login attempts. The Login LockDown plugin records the IP address and timestamp of every failed login attempt. If the number of failed attempts from the same IP range exceeds the set point, it locks down the login function.
  • Concealing your login page. Use the Rename wp-login.php plugin to rename your login page. The plugin makes the wp-admin directory and wp-login.php page inaccessible.
  • Changing your password often. Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. If you forget passwords quickly, use an app like LastPass.

Final Thoughts: How To Protect Your Website From 8 Types of Web Attacks

Now that most people work remotely, cyberattacks are on the rise. Take the proactive approach by preparing your website to fend off common website attacks.

By knowing the vulnerable points, hackers can enter your website and use the common types of web attacks. You can prepare by following these tips to protect your website. Prevention is always better than cure.

Need more from your web host? Bluehost’s managed WordPress plan takes care of everything, including security.

Sign up for a Bluehost managed WordPress hosting plan today.

Devin Sears
Devin Sears | Field Marketing Manager

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