February 25, 2011, 9:18 AM — Last year, malware became increasingly more common on popular and trusted domains, according to research released this week by security firm Blue Coat Systems. Migration to popular hacked sites with trusted reputations and acceptable-use category ratings was the primary theme for hosting malware delivery infrastructure, researchers claim.
Cybercriminals are hacking trusted sites using stolen access credentials in order to launch attacks that are out in the open, but also veiled from reputation filters and commonly blocked web categories. Here are three reasons researchers say you need to be wary -- even on sites you count as safe:
Cybercriminals are patient and willing to put in the work
Patience delivers payoffs, according to Blue Coat researchers, who note criminals will often wait months to establish legitimate web site infrastructure that will get past reputation-based software filtering. The most common example of this type of exploitation is malvertising (malware advertising) attacks.
"For example, a relatively new ad domain that had existed for approximately six months had been checked several times for malware with clean ratings when it picked a day in early November to selectively target and deliver its cloaked malware payload," the report states. "The next day it was gone."
In other words, the cybercriminal will wait months and allow their intended malicious site to develop a clean reputation within ad networks. It will allow the site to accept categorizations and pass multiple sweeps for malware in order to seem innocent and gain a trusted position within Web advertising. Once that is accomplished, the site will launch an attack during a particularly vulnerable time, such as the weekend when IT support staff is low, the report said.
Roughly 75% of phishing attacks now reside on trusted domains that have been hacked
Cybercriminals use search engines to find domains that use vulnerable-hosting software. These domains are prime hacking candidates, according to the research. Phishing attacks are more common to reputed websites now because criminals know users often have the same credentials for several accounts, including bank accounts and social networking accounts. Chances are if a thief gets a hold of your Facebook log in or banking password, they will be able to use it in other lucrative places.