A web threat is any threat that uses the World Wide Web to facilitate cybercrime. Web threats use multiple types of malware and fraud, all of which utilize HTTP or HTTPS protocols, but may also employ other protocols and components, such as links in email or IM, or malware attachments or on servers that access the Web. They benefit cybercriminals by stealing information for subsequent sale and help absorb infected PCs into botnets.
Web threats pose a broad range of risks, including financial damages, identity theft, loss of confidential information/data, theft of network resources, damaged brand/personal reputation, and erosion of consumer confidence in e-commerce and online banking.
Web threats can be divided into two primary categories, based on delivery method – push and pull. Push-based threats use spam, phishing, or other fraudulent means to lure a user to a malicious (often spoofed) website which then collects information and/or injects malware. Push attacks use phishing, DNS poisoning (or pharming), and other means to appear to originate from a trusted source.
Precisely-targeted push-based web threats are often referred to as spear phishing to reflect the focus of their data gathering attack. Spear phishing typically targets specific individuals and groups for financial gain. In other push-based web threats, malware authors use social engineering such as enticing subject lines that reference holidays, popular personalities, sports, pornography, world events and other hot topics to persuade recipients to open the email and follow links to malicious websites or open attachments with malware that accesses the Web.
Pull-based web threats are often referred to as “drive-by” threats by experts (and more commonly as “drive-by downloads” by journalists and the general public), since they can affect any website visitor. Cybercriminals infect legitimate websites, which unknowingly transmit malware to visitors or alter search results to take users to malicious websites. Upon loading the page, the user’s browser passively runs a malware downloader in a hidden HTML frame (IFRAME) without any user interaction.
Growth of web threats
“And if today’s malware runs mostly runs on Windows because it’s the commonest executable platform, tomorrow’s will likely run on the Web, for the very same reason. Because, like it or not, the Web is already a huge executable platform, and we should start thinking of it this way, from a security perspective.” – Giorgio Maone 
The growth of web threats is a result of the popularity of the Web – a relatively unprotected, widely and consistently used medium that is crucial to business productivity, online banking, and e-commerce as well as the everyday lives of people worldwide. The appeal of Web 2.0 applications and websites increases the vulnerability of the Web. Most Web 2.0 applications make use of AJAX, a group of web development programming tools used for creating interactive web applications or rich Internet applications. While users benefit from greater interactivity and more dynamic websites, they are also exposed to the greater security risks inherent in browser client processing.
In August 2008, popular social networking sites were hit by a worm using social engineering techniques to get users to install a piece of malware. The worm installs comments on the sites with links to a fake site. If users follow the link, they are told they need to update their Flash Player. The installer then installs malware rather than the Flash Player. The malware then downloads a rogue anti-spyware application, AntiSpy Spider.
Prevention and detection
Conventional approaches have failed to fully protect consumers and businesses from web threats. The most viable approach is to implement multi-layered protection—protection in the cloud, at the Internet gateway, across network servers and on the client.
- Asset (computing)
- Attack (computing)
- Browser security
- Countermeasure (computer)
- IT risk
- rich Internet applications
- Internet security
- Internet safety
- Threat (computer)
- Vulnerability (computing)
- Web applications
- web development
- Cortada, James W. (2003-12-04). The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Manufacturing, Transportation, and Retail Industries. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 512. ISBN 0-19-516588-8.
- Cortada, James W. (2005-11-03). The Digital Hand: Volume II: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment Industries. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516587-6.
- Cortada, James W. (2007-11-06). The Digital Hand, Vol 3: How Computers Changed the Work of American Public Sector Industries. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 496. ISBN 978-0-19-516586-9.
- Trend Micro (2008) Web Threats: Challenges and Solutions from http://us.trendmicro.com/imperia/md/content/us/pdf/webthreats/wp01_webthreats_080303.pdf
- Maone, Giorgio (2008) Malware 2.0 is Now! from http://hackademix.net/2008/01/12/malware-20-is-now/
- Horwath, Fran (2008) Web 2.0: next-generation web threats from http://www.it-director.com/technology/security/content.php?cid=10162
- Naraine, Ryan (2008) Business Week site hacked, serving drive-by exploits from http://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=1902#more-1902
- Danchev, Dancho (2008) Compromised Web Servers Serving Fake Flash Players from http://ddanchev.blogspot.com/2008/08/compromised-web-servers-serving-fake.html