Defending against watering hole attacks

Cybersecurity Term: Watering Hole Attacks

Watering Hole Attacks are among the many forms of cyber attacks where we are noticing an uptick of attacks.  More and more cybercriminals are launching watering hole attacks to gain access to company networks. But what exactly is a watering hole attack, and how can you protect yourself from it?

How watering hole attacks work

The term “watering hole” colloquially refers to a social gathering place where a particular group of people often go to. As internet users, we all have unique “watering holes” or websites that we frequently visit. For example, a financial analyst is likely to visit websites related to financial investments and market trends.

In a watering hole attack, cybercriminals observe the frequently accessed sites of a specific demographic and infect their targets’ most visited websites with malware. A user who has the misfortune of visiting any of these compromised sites will then encounter the implemented malware that can compromise the end-users computer and gain access to their network.

The malware used in these attacks usually collects the victim’s personal information and sends it back to the hacker’s server. In extreme cases, the hacker will also actively take control of the infected device.  Sometimes however, a cyberattack victim may not realize they’ve been taken down until much later on.

With internet tracking tools, hackers compare website traffic data among a variety of other statistics regarding the type of visitors frequented to target their attacks. Hackers then attempt to find vulnerabilities in those websites to embed them with their given malicious software.

Tips to defend against this threat

Contemporary hackers are so highly skilled that they can exploit any website using a watering hole attack. Even specific ethnic communities and demographics have become targets of this scheme.

Protect yourself and your business from watering hole attacks by doing the following:

Update your software

This is a rather simple yet often overlooked step.  Watering hole attacks often exploit security gaps and vulnerabilities to infiltrate computers and networks. You can significantly reduce the risk of an attack by regularly updating all of your software and browsers. Make it a habit to check the software developer’s website for any security patches as well. Better yet, hire a managed IT services provider like Beringer Technology Group that can manage all systems for you in real time 24/7!

Closely monitor your network

Consistently conduct security checks using network security tools, ex. intrusion prevention systems that detect and contain suspicious or malicious network activities before they cause problems. Consider using bandwidth management software to enable you to observe user behavior and detect abnormalities that could indicate an attack, such as large data transfers or a high number of downloads.

Hide your online activities

Use a VPN and your browser’s private browsing feature to hide you and your team’s online activities. You can also block social media sites from your office network, as these are often used as share points of links to infected sites.  Furthermore, always be vigilant of where your passwords are stored.

Watering hole attacks can be devastating to businesses of all sizes. By staying informed and taking steps to protect your business, you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim. Awareness of the many types of cyber attacks is a critical step users of all levels can take to prevent compromise.

Reach out to Beringer today!

Cybersecurity is a critical concept for our team here at Beringer.  Don’t tackle these various threats alone, schedule a consultation with our team to review your network’s infrastructure at your convenience!

Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution also provides expert Managed IT ServicesBackup and Disaster RecoveryCloud Based Computing, Email Security Implementation and TrainingUnified Communication Solutions, and Cybersecurity Risk Assessment.