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What is a Watering Hole Attack?

Watering hole attacks are a type of cyberattack that targets a group of users by infecting frequently visited websites. The definition of this basin is named after the animal predator lurking in the basin. Waiting for an opportunity to attack their prey when they are not alert. Similarly, drinking fountain attackers are lurking in niche websites, awaiting opportunities to infect websites and infect victims with malware.

Watering hole attacks are different from phishing and spear phishing attacks. Phishing attacks typically attempt to steal data or install malware on a user’s device, but they are often similarly targeted, effective, and difficult to prevent. Instead, watering hole attacks are aimed at infecting a user’s computer and accessing a connected corporate network. Cybercriminals use this attack vector to steal personal information, bank credentials, and intellectual property to gain unauthorized access to sensitive corporate systems.

Watering hole attacks are relatively rare, but maintain a high success rate. This is because we are targeting legitimate websites that cannot be blacklisted, and cybercriminals are using zero-day exploits that antivirus detectors and scanners do not detect. Therefore, watering hole attacks pose a significant threat to organizations and users who do not follow security best practices.

How does a watering hole attack work? In watering hole attacks, cybercriminals are lurking on legitimate websites, waiting for opportunities to target victims. Attackers seeking financial gain or building botnets could endanger popular consumer websites. Attackers typically target public websites that are frequently used by experts in certain industries, such as: B. Discussion forums, industry conferences, and customary trade associations.

Attackers first profile targets that are often employees of large organizations, government agencies, or human rights groups to identify the types of websites they visit most often. Attackers look for vulnerabilities in websites, create exploits that compromise them, infect websites, and look for victims. Often, a malicious hypertext markup language (HTML) or JavaScript code is inserted into a website to redirect the victim to a specific, perhaps fake website that hosts the attacker’s malware.

In some watering hole attacks, cybercriminals deliver and install malware unnoticed by the victim. This is commonly known as a drive-by attack. This assumes that you trust the website you are visiting, so you will download the file without realizing that you are infected with malware. In this case, an attacker could use malware such as a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that allows remote access to the victim’s computer.

What Can You Do To Prevent Such Attacks?

Watering hole attacks may be discovered by web gateways. These advanced attack vectors from sophisticated cyber criminals will require more powerful security solutions that can detect, monitor, and block malicious activity and prevent users from accessing suspicious websites.

The following best practices will help organizations prevent their networks and users from falling prey to watering hole attacks:

  1. Regular security and antivirus testing: Organizations need to regularly test security solutions and determine if those are secure enough. This secure that business process and users always browse the internet securely, prevents intentional and unintentional downloads of malware and block malicious websites.

  2. Advanced Threat Protection: Security solutions that protect your organization from advanced attack vectors are important to prevent watering hole attacks. Advanced threat protection tools include behavioral analytics solutions that increase the likelihood that an organization will detect zero-day exploits before an attacker targets a user.

  3. System and Software Updates: An important best practice to avoid watering hole attacks is to update your system and software and install operating system patches as soon as they are available from your vendor. Attackers infect websites by discovering code vulnerabilities, so it is essential to detect software bugs and vulnerabilities before cybercriminals discover them.

  4. Treat all traffic as untrusted: Your organization should treat all traffic as untrusted until it is confirmed to be legitimate. This is especially important for third-party traffic and should be the standard approach to internet traffic, whether from partner sites or popular internet properties such as Google domains.

  5. Testing and Disclosure Protection: Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) help organizations enforce Internet access policies and block unwanted or malicious software from reaching user-initiated Internet connections. This is important as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise of cloud applications increase the attack surface of enterprises. SWG protects organizations from external and internal threats with application control, URL (Uniform Resource Locator) filtering, data loss prevention (DLP), remote browser isolation, and thorough hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) inspection. To do. These solutions are important to protect your organization from the risks of advanced cybersecurity threats such as watering hole attacks.

Watering Hole Attack Statistics – Who Are Affected?

Forbes, a leading news organization, was the victim of a watering hole attack launched by a Chinese hacking group in 2015. This campaign exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash Player to display a malicious version of Forbes’ Thoughts of the Day feature loaded through a Flash widget when a visitor visits a page on the site. This allowed a watering hole attack to infect a vulnerable device that accessed the Forbes website.