5 Stages of a Web Malware Attack

Malware Attack

Have you ever heard of a web malware attack? If not, then you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we will be discussing the five stages of a web malware attack. First, let’s define what web malware is. Web malware is malicious software or code that is specifically designed to exploit vulnerabilities in web-based applications. This type of malware can be found on websites, web servers, and web browsers.

According to a report by SonicWall, there was a 68% increase in web-based attacks in 2020 compared to the previous year. This shows that web malware attacks are becoming more prevalent and it’s important to know the stages of an attack to better protect ourselves. Now, let’s dive into the five stages of a web malware attack. These stages are: entry point, traffic distribution, exploit, infection, and execution. Each stage plays a crucial role in the success of the attack and understanding them can help us prevent future attacks.

Stage #1: Entry Point

What Happen in Entry Point Stage?

The first stage of a web malware attack is the entry point, which is the point of vulnerability that an attacker uses to gain access to the web application. Here are some ways that attackers can find an entry point:

  • Vulnerable software: Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in the software that the web application is built on, such as WordPress or Joomla.
  • Phishing: Attackers can use phishing techniques to trick users into giving up their login credentials, which can then be used to gain access to the web application.
  • SQL injection: Attackers can use SQL injection to exploit vulnerabilities in the database that the web application uses, which can give them access to sensitive data.

According to a report by Positive Technologies, web applications are the most common target of cyber attacks, accounting for 43% of all attacks in 2020. This highlights the importance of protecting web applications against entry point attacks.

How to Prevent Entry Point?

Preventing entry point attacks is critical in protecting your web application from a web malware attack. Here are some tips to prevent attackers from finding an entry point:

  • Keep software up to date: Keeping the software that your web application is built on up to date is critical in preventing attackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.
  • Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication can help to prevent attackers from gaining access to the web application even if they have obtained login credentials through phishing.
  • Implement input validation: Input validation can help to prevent SQL injection attacks by ensuring that user input is properly formatted.
  • Conduct regular security audits: Regular security audits can help to identify vulnerabilities in your web application before attackers can exploit them.

Stage #2: Traffic Distribution

What Happen in Traffic Distribution Stage?

Once an attacker has found an entry point into a web application, the next stage is traffic distribution. This stage involves the attacker distributing traffic to the web application in order to exploit vulnerabilities and execute the attack.

There are several ways that attackers can distribute traffic to a web application, including:

  • Automated tools: Attackers can use automated tools, such as bots, to distribute traffic to the web application. These tools can generate large amounts of traffic quickly, making it more difficult for defenders to detect and block the attack.
  • Botnets: Attackers can also use botnets, which are networks of compromised computers that can be controlled remotely, to distribute traffic to the web application. Botnets can generate huge amounts of traffic, making them a powerful tool for launching DDoS attacks.
  • Malvertising: Attackers can use malvertising, which involves embedding malicious code in legitimate ads, to distribute traffic to the web application. When users click on the ad, they are redirected to the attacker’s website, which may contain malware.

According to a report by Akamai, DDoS attacks increased by 12% in 2020, with the average attack size increasing by 43%. This highlights the importance of defending against traffic distribution attacks.

How to Prevent Traffic Distribution?

Preventing traffic distribution attacks is critical in protecting your web application from a web malware attack. Here are some tips to prevent attackers from distributing traffic to your web application:

  • Use a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN can help to distribute traffic across multiple servers, reducing the impact of a DDoS attack.
  • Implement rate limiting: Rate limiting can help to prevent automated tools and bots from generating too much traffic to your web application.
  • Use IP blocking: Blocking traffic from known malicious IP addresses can help to prevent attacks before they even begin.
  • Monitor traffic patterns: Monitoring traffic patterns can help you to detect and block unusual traffic, which may be an indicator of an ongoing attack.

Stage #3: Exploit

What Happen in Exploit Stage?

The third stage of a web malware attack is the exploit, which is the technique used by attackers to take advantage of a vulnerability in the web application. Here are some common exploits used by attackers:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): XSS attacks involve injecting malicious code into a web page, which can then be executed by unsuspecting users who visit the page.
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): CSRF attacks involve tricking a user into executing an action on a web application without their knowledge or consent.
  • File Inclusion: File inclusion attacks involve exploiting a vulnerability in a web application that allows attackers to include their own code or files.

According to a report by Imperva, the top three types of web application attacks in 2020 were injection, cross-site scripting, and application-layer DDoS attacks. This highlights the importance of protecting against exploits in order to prevent a web malware attack.

How to Prevent Exploit?

Preventing exploits is crucial in protecting your web application from a web malware attack. Here are some tips to prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in your web application:

  • Input validation: Implement input validation to ensure that user input is properly formatted and prevent injection attacks.
  • Content Security Policy (CSP): Use a CSP to restrict the types of content that can be loaded on your web pages and prevent XSS attacks.
  • Session management: Implement strong session management practices, such as session timeouts and secure cookies, to prevent CSRF attacks.
  • Web Application Firewall (WAF): Use a WAF to monitor incoming traffic and block known attack patterns.

Stage #4: Infection

What Happen in Infection Stage?

The fourth stage of a web malware attack is the infection, which is the process of the malware spreading and infecting other systems or files. Here are some common ways that malware can infect a system:

  • File Infection: Malware can infect files on a system, which can then be spread to other systems if the infected files are shared.
  • Email Attachment: Malware can be spread through email attachments, which can then infect a system when the attachment is opened.
  • Drive-By Download: Malware can be downloaded onto a system when a user visits a compromised website.

How to Prevent Infection?

Preventing malware infections is crucial in protecting your systems and data from a web malware attack. Here are some tips to prevent malware infections:

  • Anti-Virus Software: Use anti-virus software to scan your system for malware and remove any infections.
  • Email Filtering: Implement email filtering to prevent malicious emails from reaching your inbox and infecting your system.
  • User Education: Educate users on how to identify and avoid phishing emails and other forms of social engineering.
  • Software Updates: Keep all software on your system up to date to prevent attackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.

Stage #5: Execution

What Happens in the Execution Stage?

The fifth and final stage of a web malware attack is the execution, which is when the malware is activated and begins carrying out its malicious actions. Here are some common actions that malware can take during the execution stage:

  • Data Theft: Malware can steal sensitive data from a system, such as login credentials, credit card numbers, and personal information.
  • Ransomware: Malware can encrypt a system’s files and demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.
  • Botnets: Malware can create a botnet, which is a network of infected devices that can be used for various malicious activities, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

According to a report by IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million, highlighting the significant financial impact that malware attacks can have on organizations. In addition, a study by Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that global ransomware damage costs will reach $20 billion by 2021.

How to Prevent this Stage?

Preventing malware from executing and carrying out its malicious actions is crucial in minimizing the impact of a web malware attack. Here are some tips to prevent malware execution:

  • Network Segmentation: Segment your network to limit the spread of malware if it infects a system.
  • Least Privilege Access: Limit user access to only the resources they need to perform their job, which can help prevent malware from spreading to critical systems.
  • Application Whitelisting: Use application whitelisting to prevent unauthorized applications from running on your system.
  • Incident Response Plan: Develop and implement an incident response plan to quickly respond to and contain malware attacks.

Read More 15 Types Of Cyber Attacks


To protect against web malware attacks, it’s important to understand the five stages of such an attack, including the entry point, traffic distribution, exploit, infection, and execution stages. Prevention requires a combination of technical controls and user education and awareness. Technical controls such as firewalls and antivirus software can help prevent the initial entry point and the spread of malware, while user education can help prevent social engineering attacks that may lead to malware infection. Overall, a comprehensive security strategy that addresses each stage is necessary to minimize the risk of a successful web malware attack and protect digital assets.