To reduce the risk of malware infections from websites you can avoid certain types of sites that are commonly used by cybercriminals to infect visitors. Sites containing pornography for instance, torrents sites, and online marketplaces selling illegal medication for example. However, while these sites are often compromised with malware or contain malicious code, they are far from the most common sites used by cybercriminals to infect visitors.

The unfortunately reality is that browsing the Internet and only visiting what are perceived to be “safe sites” does not mean that you will not be exposed to maware, malicious code, and exploit kits. Hackers are increasingly compromising seemingly legitimate websites to redirect visitors to sites containing exploit kits that download malware and ransomware.

Two CBS-affiliated news websites were recently discovered to be hosting malicious adverts that redirect visitors to sites containing the Angler Exploit Kit. MSN has been found to host malvertising in the past, as has Yahoo. A study conducted by anti-virus company Symantec revealed that three quarters of websites contain security vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited to infect visitors with malware.

High Profile Websites Compromised and Used to Deliver Ransomware to Visitors

This week, two new websites were found to have been compromised and were used to infect visitors with malware.

The celebrity gossip website may cause problems for celebrities, but this week it was also causing problems for its visitors. The site attracts millions of visitors, yet few would suspect that visiting the site placed them at risk of having their computer files locked with powerful file-encrypting ransomware.

However, that is exactly what has been happening. Hackers compromised an iframe on the site and inserted malicious code which redirected visitors to a website containing the Angler Exploit Kit. Angler probes visitors’ browsers for security vulnerabilities and exploits them; silently download a payload of malware. In this case, the Angler Exploit Kit was used to push Bedep malware, which in turn silently downloaded CryptXXX ransomware onto the victims’ devices.

A second malvertising campaign was also conducted that redirected visitors to a different website. The exploit kit used to infect redirected visitors was different, but the end result was the same. A malicious payload was downloaded onto their devices.

Another well-known website was also discovered to have been compromised this week. The website of the world renowned French film production company Pathé was discovered to have been compromised. Hackers had managed to embed malicious code in one of the webpages on the site. The code also redirected users to a site hosting the Angler Exploit Kit, which similarly was used to infect visitors with CryptXXX ransomware.

How to Reduce the Risk of Malware Infections from Websites

Exploit kits take advantage of security vulnerabilities in browsers. To reduce the risk of malware infections from websites it is essential that browsers are kept up to date. That includes all browser plugins. If no security vulnerabilities exist, there would be nothing for exploit kits to exploit.

However, zero-day vulnerabilities are emerging all the time and software manufacturers are not always quick to develop fixes. Adobe was alerted to a new zero-day vulnerability a few days ago, yet they only just released a fix. During that time, the vulnerability could have been exploited using exploit kits. Cybercriminal gangs are quick to incorporate new zero-day vulnerabilities into their exploit kits and do so faster than software companies can release fixes. Ensuring all updates are installed promptly is a great way to reduce the risk of malware infections from websites, but additional measures need to be taken.

If you really want to improve your – or your company’s – security posture and really reduce the risk of malware infections from websites, you should use a web filtering solution. This is particularly important for businesses to ensure that employees do not inadvertently compromise the network. It can be difficult to ensure that all devices used to connect to the network are kept 100% up to date, 100% of the time.

A web filtering solution can be configured to block malvertising, blacklists can be used to prevent compromised websites from being accessed, and malware downloads can be prevented. Along with good patch management practices, it is possible to effectively reduce the risk of malware infections from websites.