Let’s Differentiate – Website Vulnerabilities and Malware

July 16, 2020 / Privacy


When you talk about website security, both the terms- website vulnerability and malware are the same things. However, when you consider your online digital data assets, they might not be the same thing. Website malware often acts as a burglar that is looking to get away with your crucial data. On the other hand, website vulnerabilities can be seen as the open entry points through which a burglar can enter your network in the absence of robust security mechanisms. This discussion might just sound like a simple analogy with the real world, but being a website owner of your business, you need to dive in further to understand the differences both these two terms.

So, in this blog post, we shall be discussing the underlying differences and by the end of this post, we hope that you are able to distinguish these terms for your website and the data hosted on it.

Website Malware- What Are They?

Website malware is an umbrella term that is used to define the software created by bad actors for either compromising or damaging the security of websites. Any cyber-attacker is always intended to gain illegal access to a website’s data. A cyber-attacker might even capture the hosted website data for financial gains or also damaging the online reputation of a website.

Common Forms of Website Malware

Various forms of website malware exist today, which can have a significant impact on the reputation of a website.

The common forms of website malware include-

  1. SEO Spam This is one of the most common forms of website malware. In SEO spam, the website hijackers restrict the website’s visibility for promoting scams. Most of you, while visiting another website, might have encountered some out-of-context advertising on these sites. This content might not be displayed in the search results, thereby allowing the hackers to have access to such sites and then add content that can misguide the visitors for specific terms that might be a part of the scam.
  2. Backdoors A backdoor malware allows hackers to obtain access to a website that might be reserved for the higher and privileged users, such as system admins. Through a backdoor malware, the cyber-attackers can infect a website with any of the possible malware that we shall be discussing below.
  3. Hacktools Hacktools depict a broad category of website malware that covers various tools that are dependent on the website/server resources for performing a scam or any other form of website attack. One of the most common types of the Hacktools is a mailer that can send phishing-related emails from an apparently trusted source.
  4. Website Defacements Website defacements attacks refer to a form of an attack, where the cyber-attackers enter the website and put up their content on the site by replacing the pre-existing content. These messages are usually targeted to convey some form of political or religious messages; at times, even irrelevant content is also posted to embarrass the website owners.
  5. e-Commerce Stealers This is a type of website malware that can be quite scary for customers who make a purchase online. This form of malware is designed for infecting an eCommerce website with the intent of getting away with a credit card and other relevant bank information of the innocent customers.

Website Vulnerabilities- What Are They?

A website vulnerability is defined as weakness/ security loophole present in a website or web application that enables a cyber-attacker to have control over the site. Most of the website vulnerabilities can be exploited place by automated methods. Website vulnerabilities can attract cyber-attackers and offer them easy access for infecting a website with malware.

Common Website Vulnerabilities

There are various vulnerabilities with which a cyber-attacker can attack a website, causing some severe damage.

The common forms of website vulnerabilities include-

  1. SQL Injections (SQLi) The SQL Injection vulnerabilities define an area in the website code where the cyber-attacker the input is directly passed on to the database. SQL injections are commonly used by attackers to get access to various open-source CMS applications like- WordPress. Cyber-attackers deploy this method of website vulnerability to gain access to the website in different ways, such as-
    1. Injecting malicious and spam posts on a website
    2. Getting away with critical information of users
    3. Bypassing user authentications to have complete control of the website
  2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) The cross-site scripting vulnerability takes place when the attacker introduces an input via a wrong input or other fields present on a website for executing the code on the targeted site. This vulnerability is intended for website visitors instead of the server/website. The attackers target the JavaScript on the website so that malicious scripts are introduced on the website visitor’s browser.
  3. File Inclusion Attacks (LFI & RFI)
    1. Remote-File Inclusion (RFI): The RFI attacks use the pre-defined functions present at the server-side web applications such as PHP for executing the code at the remotely located & stored files. Attackers host their malicious files and then encash on the wrongly entered user inputs for injecting/modifying a function in the PHP code present at the victim’s location.
    2. Local File Inclusion (LFI): The LFI attacks similar to an RFI attack can take place when the input provided by the user can change the complete path for the included files. Attackers use this method for gaining read/write access to locally stored sensitive files. In an LFI attack, the attacker can also carry out a directory traversal attack by changing the included path for reviewing the server files present at the back end, thereby exposing vital information.
  4. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

These website vulnerability attacks are lesser-known, but they can some serious damage to the website. In a CSRF attack, the site visitors are tricked into performing malicious activities to fulfill the attacker’s motivation. This form of website vulnerability takes place mostly for eCommerce and banking websites where the attackers get access to user-critical financial information.

Securing Websites Against Malware and Vulnerabilities

There are various ways by which you can defend your website against all the potential vulnerabilities and malware.

Some common protection mechanisms include the following-

  1. Using a Website Scanning Tool When you use a trusted and reputed website scanning tool like- VTMScan, you can enhance the security levels against all such online malware, threats, and vulnerabilities. Besides securing the website, these website scanning tools even alert the user before any possible attack might occur.
  2. Keeping Updated Applications and Plugins Users often tend to install various applications and plugins on their websites for simpler website operations. Thus, it is vital for you continually to update apps and plugins, so that all the security loopholes are covered.
  3. Robust Password Policies For various online accounts of a user, passwords serve as the first line of defense. As a responsible user, you should always deploy complex passwords for your accounts, making it difficult for attackers to guess them easily. Also, encourage everyone to implement strong password policies for securing their accounts and associated data from such bad cyber actors.

Wrapping Up:

After seeing an extensive comparison between both the terms, we are pretty confident that you must have understood the underlying differences between website vulnerabilities and malware. Both are two different yet closely related entities in the website security domain. Thus, as a website owner, it is inevitably important for you to secure your website and the data hosted on it at any cost! Deploying robust security mechanisms ensure that cyber-attackers don’t get many chances to enter your site through any open ‘windows’ or ‘doors.’

If you’re still looking for a trusted website security provider, reach out to Team bodHOST today for leveraging best-in-class security for your website and its hosted data.

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