Protecting yourself from Viruses and Malware
Can you get a virus from visiting a website? – Facts Vs. Myths
Can you get a virus from visiting a website? This is probably the question on your mind after you visited a suspicious website and the reason that led you here.
The thought of getting your computer, phone, or iPad infected with a virus is a scary thing. Just imagine your files being corrupted or destroyed…
Worse, your personal information is being siphoned to a hacker somewhere else on the globe bent on stealing your identity or your money!
I’m not scaring you more than you may already be. So before you have a nervous breakdown, let me help you identify what’s facts from myths on viruses or malware when visiting websites.
What are the common myths about being infected with a virus when surfing online?
Myth 1: You need to do something deliberate on a website before getting a virus.
By deliberate, this means downloading a .exe file or any file for that matter, watching a live streaming video, clicking a link, or clicking an advertisement.
This also means having to run the downloaded .exe file from a website or opening the file. Gone are the days that you need to deliberately do something on a website before getting a virus.
Downloading fake templates for Divi Themes is not the only way you expose yourself to hackers.
Hackers have now become so advanced in programming viruses that just visiting a website may already infect your computer or gadget with a virus or malware.
Myth 2: Only accessing legitimate websites won’t get you infected.
Let’s say you are very careful in the websites you visit, such that you only access those that are legitimate. But did you know that even legitimate sites can give your computer a virus after you visited them?
MakeUseOf.Com contradicts the notion that adult or porn sites are the most prone to infect your computer or gadget with viruses or malware just by visiting it.
Statistics from 2015 show that automotive, aviation, agriculture and mining, food and beverage, insurance, media and publishing, and real estate and management websites posed more threats to visitors for viruses and malware.
Myth 3: Having an antivirus or anti-malware software will prevent my computer, phone, or iPad from being infected.
Despite the possibility of all websites getting you infected with a virus by simply visiting it, you might contest that having an installed antivirus or anti-malware software on your computer, phone, or iPad will keep you protected. Not really.
The new breed of viruses and malware circulating online is far more sophisticated today than it was before that it can bypass anti-virus or anti-malware software.
Myth 4: My browser will easily detect if a file is being downloaded into my computer or gadget from a malicious server.
Besides having installed protective software, you might also add being equipped with a browser that would quickly notify you whenever an unauthorized or automatic download is taking place. This may particularly happen especially if the browser detects it is coming from a malicious server.
However, this too can be bypassed by the new breed of viruses and malware. So much so that a virus or malware can infect your computer or gadget by simply visiting a website.
Are there any proofs you can get a virus from just visiting a website?
Now we have debunked the myths with the facts of how viruses these days operate. But you might think I am exaggerated in what I say. You probably want to know if I have evidence of what I say.
For one, there is the 2012 incident involving the malware named The Blackhole that its dubious programmers incorporated into the cyber protection software of Sophos and AVG.
The Blackhole was the first exploit kit for it was able to run behind the scenes as it infected computers and devices without being detected. Exploit kits are widely used by hackers on the internet.
Another proof is the existence of Malvertising. Norton explains that Malvertising is different from adware even though both viruses function from online advertising. The former works on legitimate websites. An example is malvertising linked to the advertisements of Yahoo, MSN, and the London Stock Exchange.
How does malvertising specifically operate?
Malvertising is a new method employed by cybercriminals. Hackers can penetrate online advertising networks by buying ad space and providing them with infected images or videos.
The advertising networks are unaware that there is malicious code encrypted into the ads provided by hackers. These ads then will infect anyone who clicks it or even where it loads to even if it appears from a legitimate website once visited.
How do you get a virus whenever you visit a website?
I hope the proofs I have given you are enough to make you believe that you can get a virus by just visiting a website. Let’s summarize how you get infected by doing so.
According to TheTechWire, there are three possible ways you can get a virus by visiting a website. These are through: exploit kits, drive-by downloads, and website traffic interception.
Hackers are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities. This pertains to vulnerability in a website, software, or tools so that they can integrate with it their malicious software or virus.
When a website is vulnerable, hackers use exploit kits like The Blackhole to be integrated into its programming. Exploit kits are a group of codes or scripting with the instruction to infiltrate the device of a website visitor.
The kit automatically installs a remote access tool in the website visitor’s device much like a trojan works so that hackers could control it according to their intent.
Drive-by downloads, on the other hand, operate by silently downloading a virus to a website visitor’s device. Once downloaded, the virus can easily figure out what are the vulnerabilities in the device’s operating system, applications, or web browser so it can take control of it.
Finally, hackers can also intercept a website’s traffic between its hosting by forwarding it to a fake website. The fake server presents an invalid certificate to make it look like an authentic website. This way, the person visiting the website is unaware of the potential threat he or she is faced with.
How do I protect myself from being infected by a virus when visiting a website?
With almost a million new malware detected just this February 2022, browsing online has become more threatening to users than ever. It is a must that one becomes proactive and protective of online security.
TheTechWire recommends being aware of what threats are available online as the first step of protection from being infected by viruses and avoiding being hacked. It is best to be knowledgeable of the different types of viruses or malware currently being used by hackers such as the ones I’ve mentioned above.
Here is a run-down of things you can do to protect yourself from viruses or malware when visiting a website:
1. Enable your browser’s “click-to-play” option to avoid plugin-required online content from automatic installation/operation.
2. Get rid of online advertisements with an ad blocker.
3. Invest in a reputable antivirus program that you keep up-to-date.
4. Also keep your operating systems, programs, browsers, and applications updated with the latest patch.
5. Besides updated patches, installing the latest upgrade of your operating systems, etc. is necessary.
6. Implement a layered approach to your cybersecurity by installing several forms of protective software. Besides having an antivirus and adblocker, also install an anti-exploit software.
7. Avoid websites with a certificate warning.
8. Stay away from suspicious links and pop-up ads.
9. Practice safe browsing by visiting websites with an HTTPS address since these are secure sites.
10. Remember to regularly clean your computer or device of any unnecessary software.
In A Nutshell
Surfing online has become more treacherous to one’s safety for one can easily be infected by a virus by simply visiting a website. It is a must therefore that one take extra precaution and multi-layered protection when it comes to online activities and transactions.
Can you get infected by clicking a link?
Yes, your computer, gadget, or device can get infected by clicking a link leading to a malicious server. These days your device can get infected even if you don’t click an advertisement or any link because of the existence of exploit kits and malvertising.
What websites are more prone to viruses or malware?
Despite the common notion that visiting an illegal website will get you easily infected with viruses or malware, statistics show that there are certain industries whose websites are more threatening to one’s cybersecurity. These are the automotive, aviation, agriculture and mining, food and beverage, insurance, media and publishing, and real estate and management industries.
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My name is Ralph de Groot. I'm the founder and author at My Codeless Website. Wake me up for a great web design. I love writing about website examples, too!