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7 Common Website Security Threats You Should Know About

The internet is a vast and dangerous place, with new security threats popping up every day. 

Today, we will delve into some of the most common website security threats in Canada and proven ways to protect yourself.

In our previous article on the same topic: 10 Simple (But Effective) Tips for Safer Website in Canada, we talked about some of the most effective tips you can implement to keep your site safe.

Thinking about it, we realized that if you are going to be ready for anything, you also need to know what you are fighting against, right?

And that is where this guide comes in. Of course, there are myriad threats out there, and even new ones coming up every day. But this should serve as the starting point of what you are fighting when it comes to keeping your site safe here in Canada.

What is a website security threat?

This is a type of cyberattack that aims to exploit vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or disrupt the normal functioning of a website. 

These threats can come in all directions, from the site itself, the server, or even through software you use to communicate with your customers.

Either way, it’s a proven fact that every website is vulnerable to security threats. While some of these issues are more common than others, all websites face the risk of being hacked or compromised.

That said, here are some of the most common website security threats:

1). SQL injection

SQL injection is a type of cyber attack in which malicious code is inserted into an SQL statement, resulting in data being compromised. This can happen when user input is not properly validated or sanitized.

If successful, this security threat can be used to bypass authentication and gain access to sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or social security numbers. It can also be used to modify data, delete data, or even drop entire tables from a database.

How to prevent it

Preventing SQL injection attacks requires proper validation and sanitation of user input. All user input should be treated as potentially malicious and escaped accordingly. 

For example, using prepared statements with placeholders is one way to ensure that user input can never directly interact with an SQL statement.

2). Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting, also known as XSS, is another type of computer security vulnerability typically found in web applications. XSS enables attackers to inject malicious scripts into webpages viewed by other users.

When an attacker finds a way to insert malicious code into a webpage, any unsuspecting user who visits that page can have their browser execute the code. This can allow the attacker to steal sensitive information like cookies or session tokens, and even hijack the user’s session entirely.

How to prevent it?

Preventing XSS vulnerabilities can be tricky, but there are some basic steps you can take. 

First, make sure to validate all user input before displaying it on a page. This will help ensure that no malicious code gets through in the first place.

Second, use a web application firewall (WAF) to help block malicious requests. WAFs can be configured to specifically look for and block XSS attacks.

Most importantly, keep your software up-to-date with the latest security patches. Many XSS vulnerabilities are actually caused by outdated software that doesn’t have the latest fixes applied.

3). Malware

You must have heard about this one, it is a very common security issue.

Malware is a type of software that is designed to harm your computer or mobile device. It can steal your personal information, delete important files, or even send spam emails from your account. 

There are a few different ways that malware can find its way onto your device. One is through email attachments – if you receive an email with an attachment from someone you don’t know, don’t open it! 

Another way is by visiting websites that are not secure. Make sure you only visit websites that start with “HTTPS://” – this means they are using a secure connection.

How to prevent it

Preventing malware from infecting your computer can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. 

  • Never open email attachments from people you don’t know. 
  • Only visit websites that you trust. 
  • Keep your software up to date, as outdated software can provide a way for malware to get on your computer. 
  • Consider using antivirus software to help protect your computer from malware.

If your computer is infected, the perpetrator can steal your personal data including website logins.

4). Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

How does a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack work? 

In very basic terms, a hacker overloads a server with requests, causing it to crash and become unavailable. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most common is to use a botnet: a group of infected computers that can be controlled by the attacker.

Why would they do this? 

Well, if a website is down, people can’t use it. This might be done to make a political statement, or as part of an extortion attempt (“pay me or your site gets taken down”). It could also simply be because the attacker enjoys causing havoc.

How to prevent it

To prevent a DDoS attack, you need to have a robust security system in place. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and denying access to anonymous users. 

You should also have multiple servers so that if one is taken down by an attack, the others can still keep your website or service running.

That’s where cloud hosting comes in. By using a cloud provider like AWS, Google Cloud Platform, or Azure, you can scale your resources up or down as needed to help handle spikes in traffic. This means that if you do get hit by a DDoS attack, it is less likely to take your website offline.

5). Ransomware Attack

According to a 2020 report by CyberEdge, 72% of Canadian organizations were hit by some form of ransomware in 2020.

If you have no idea what it is, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom for the decryption key.

Someone locks your files and asks for money (mostly in form of crypto), in exchange for the decryption key🤦‍♂️. They may also threaten to release your data publicly if you don’t comply with their demands.

It is usually spread through phishing emails or malicious websites. Once your computer is infected, the ransomware will scan your hard drive for certain file types and encrypt them.

How to prevent it

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from ransomware attacks. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your software up to date: One of the best ways to protect yourself from ransomware is to keep your software up to date. This includes both your operating system and any applications you have installed on your computer. Outdated software often has security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. Make sure you always install updates as soon as they’re available.
  • Use a reputable antivirus program: Another good way to protect yourself from ransomware is to use a reputable antivirus program. Antivirus programs can detect and remove many types of malware, including ransomware infections. Be sure to keep your antivirus program up to date and run regular scans.
  • Don’t open email attachments from unknown senders: As we mentioned, often, ransomware spread through email attachments. If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know, or if it seems suspicious, do not open it! Likewise, be careful about clicking on links in emails unless you’re absolutely sure they’re safe.
  • Back up your data regularly: That way, even if your computer does get infected with ransomware, you will still have a copy of all your important files stored safely elsewhere. Be sure to store your backups offline, such as on an external hard drive or USB flash drive.
  • Be cautious about what you download: Be careful about what you download from the internet, especially things like email attachments and files from peer-to-peer (P2P) networks (this includes those movies you download on torrent websites😁). Make sure you only download files from websites you trust and that are reputable. If possible, scan downloaded files with your antivirus program before opening them.

6). Phishing scams

Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving them your personal information, like your password or credit card number. 

They might do this by sending you an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate website, or by creating a fake website that looks real.

And when you click on it, they will harvest everything you type on that page.

In fact, during the pandemic, more than 14% of Canadians received Covid-19 test results related to a phishing email.

Often, I get emails claiming my website password has expired. 

I mean seriously🤣!

When you follow the link they provide, you are presented with an option to change your password. Everything you type on that page will be logged by the attacker.

And that’s how most people lose their websites😢.

How to prevent it

If you get an email from a website that you don’t recognize, don’t click on any links or open any attachments. 

And if you are ever asked to enter your personal information on a website, make sure you check that the URL is spelled correctly and that there’s a padlock icon next to it, which means the site is secure.

Also, if you get emails purporting to be from your web hosting provider, don’t click anywhere or do anything until you’ve confirmed with their support team.

7. Brute force attack

Another one of the most common website threats. Unlike phishing, this type of cyber attack uses automated software to guess your website passwords or passphrases until it finds the correct one. 

Here, the attacker tries various combinations of usernames and passwords, over and over again, until they find the right combination. They can do this using a list of common words, or by using a dictionary attack, which tries every word in the dictionary. 

How to prevent it? 

That’s why you always hear, “use strong passwords that are hard to guess.”

Additionally, don’t use the same password for different accounts. There are different types of password managers you can use to help keep track of all usernames and passwords.

You can also use two-factor authentication, which requires you to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password.


Website Security Threats FAQs

What are the biggest security risks for new websites?

When it comes to security risks for new websites, there are a few key things to watch out for. First and foremost, make sure that your website is properly secured with HTTPS. This will ensure that all data passing through your site is encrypted and secure. Secondly, be sure to keep your CMS and software up to date. Outdated software is one of the leading causes of website hacks and security breaches. Finally, don’t forget about user-generated content. If you allow users to upload files or post comments on your site, make sure that you have proper security measures in place to protect against malicious code or attacks.

As a new website owner, be aware of the potential security risks that could threaten your site. Take some simple precautions, you can help keep your site safe from harm.

What are network-based threats?

Network-based threats are any type of threat that can exploit a weakness in a networked system. This can include everything from malware and viruses to denial-of-service attacks.

What are application-based threats?

Application-based threats are dangers that come from using certain applications or programs. These threats can come in the form of malware, viruses, or other malicious code that can harm your device or steal your data.

What are browser-based attacks?

There are a few different types of browser-based attacks, but the most common ones are phishing attacks and drive-by downloads.

Phishing attacks happen when someone tricks you into clicking on a malicious link that takes you to a fake website. This fake website looks just like the real thing, but it’s designed to steal your personal information.

Drive-by downloads happen when you visit a website that has been infected with malware.

What are Web security standards?

Web security standards are a set of guidelines for ensuring that your website is secure. They cover everything from how to encrypt data to how to handle sensitive information.

There are a few reasons why web security standards are important. First, they help ensure that your website is safe from hackers. Second, they can help you avoid legal liability if something goes wrong.

Finally, they can give your customers and users peace of mind knowing that their information is safe.

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