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Albert Kharitonov
Albert Kharitonov

What Are Drive-by Downloads Prevent Drive-by Download Attacks!

A drive-by download refers to the unintentional download of malicious code onto a computer or mobile device that exposes users to different types of threats. Cybercriminals make use of drive-by downloads to steal and collect personal information, inject banking Trojans, or introduce exploit kits or other malware to endpoints, among many others.

What Are Drive-by Downloads Prevent Drive-by Download Attacks!

To be protected against drive-by downloads, regularly update or patch systems with the latest versions of apps, software, browsers, and operating systems. It is also advisable to stay away from insecure or potentially malicious websites. Drive-by downloads were observed to be hosted in websites of questionable reputation, or even reputable websites that have been compromised. A reliable and proactive security solution that actively scans websites can help protect endpoints from drive-by downloads and other cyberattacks.

Drive-by downloads may happen when visiting a website,[3] opening an e-mail attachment or clicking a link, or clicking on a deceptive pop-up window:[4] by clicking on the window in the mistaken belief that, for example, an error report from the computer's operating system itself is being acknowledged or a seemingly innocuous advertisement pop-up is being dismissed. In such cases, the "supplier" may claim that the user "consented" to the download, although the user was in fact unaware of having started an unwanted or malicious software download. Similarly if a person is visiting a site with malicious content, the person may become victim to a drive-by download attack. That is, the malicious content may be able to exploit vulnerabilities in the browser or plugins to run malicious code without the user's knowledge.[5]

When creating a drive-by download, an attacker must first create their malicious content to perform the attack. With the rise in exploit packs that contain the vulnerabilities needed to carry out unauthorized drive-by download attacks, the skill level needed to perform this attack has been reduced.[5]

Finally, the attacker exploits the necessary vulnerabilities to launch the drive-by download attack. Drive-by downloads usually use one of two strategies. The first strategy is exploiting API calls for various plugins. For example, the DownloadAndInstall API of the Sina ActiveX component did not properly check its parameters and allowed the downloading and execution of arbitrary files from the internet. The second strategy involves writing shellcode to memory, and then exploiting vulnerabilities in the web browser or plugin to divert the control flow of the program to the shell code.[6] After the shellcode has been executed, the attacker can perform further malicious activities. This often involves downloading and installing malware, but can be anything, including stealing information to send back to the attacker.[5]

Detection of drive-by download attacks is an active area of research. Some methods of detection involve anomaly detection, which tracks for state changes on a user's computer system while the user visits a webpage. This involves monitoring the user's computer system for anomalous changes when a web page is rendered. Other methods of detection include detecting when malicious code (shellcode) is written to memory by an attacker's exploit. Another detection method is to make run-time environments that allow JavaScript code to run and track its behavior while it runs. Other detection methods include examining contents of HTML pages to identify features that can be used to identify malicious web pages, and using characteristics of web servers to determine if a page is malicious.[5] Some antivirus tools use static signatures to match patterns of malicious scripts, although these are not very effective because of obfuscation techniques. Detection is also possible by using low-interaction or high-interaction honeyclients.[6]

Drive-by downloads can also be prevented from occurring by using script-blockers such as NoScript, which can easily be added into browsers such as Firefox. Using such a script-blocker, the user can disable all the scripts on a given webpage, and then selectively re-enable individual scripts on a one-by-one basis in order to determine which ones are truly necessary for webpage functionality. However, some script-blocking tools can have unintended consequences, such as breaking parts of other websites, which can be a bit of a balancing act.[1]

A drive-by download attack can be the intentional or unintentional installation of malicious programs, files, or software into a computer or mobile device. Drive-by downloads can be used by cybercriminals to steal your personal information, spy on you, insert banking Trojans, or infiltrate your entire network with malware.

An authorized drive-by download necessitates user engagement at some point. A hacker, for example, breaches a website and inserts an attack vector. However, in order to finish the attack, the user must still click Download, Okay, or something similar. The option to download a malicious program, disguised as a regular file, comes unprompted after the user arrives at the site. Some definitions of an allowed drive-by download go even further, including malware or bundleware that was downloaded accidentally as part of another software installer.

For this reason, we created an all-encompassing guide to drive-by downloads. In this post, we'll explain what drive-by downloads are and how they work, in addition to giving some real-life drive-by attack examples. You can also use the provided drive-by attack prevention tips to learn how to protect your private information.

Authorized drive-by downloads rely on the user to initiate the download. Cybercriminals often leverage phishing and/or social engineering approaches to trick you into doing just this. This is typically how it goes:

An important thing to remember is that bundleware is often attached to authorized drive-by downloads. These are secondary programs hidden within the program you intended to install, concealing other types of malware.

With this drive-by attack method, the cybercriminal focuses on compromising frequently visited webpages to increase their number of potential victims. They use zero-day exploits to identify security flaws that will grant them access to site controls so they can set up their attacks.

These unfortunate situations emphasize the importance of learning the best ways to protect yourself against drive-by download attacks. You can use the tips listed below to avoid becoming another unexpected victim.

Remember to update operating systems with the latest security patches. These can help prevent hackers from using drive-by downloads to infect your devices and get ahold of your sensitive information.

If you enter a website and several pop-up windows appear, close them all and leave the site immediately. These windows could be trying to lure you into clicking a button that will deploy a drive-by download onto your computer, compromising your data and network.

Now that you are aware of drive-by downloads, you can browse safely knowing how to identify and prevent future attacks. Because with our emerging digital age, there's nothing more important than having measures in place to protect our identity, data, and privacy.

Also known as drive-by, drive-by cyber attack and drive-by download, this type of cyber attack is related to triggering an unintended download of a software from the Internet. Often, two different definitions are associated with drive-by download:

Both definitions refer to the download of a malicious software. Due to the strategy employed by malicious attackers, the user may or may not be aware of the fact that they are downloading something from the Internet, yet regardless, the drive-by download manages to harm them.

It is possible that the malware appeared on your computer via a "drive-by" download. You don't need to click download or consent to the installation of the malicious program. Instead, the drive-by download attack automates the entire process.

The idea of the drive-by download attack is to install malware on the victim's computer without them noticing. What makes them particularly devious is that a drive-by download attack can take place on almost any website, even ones you consider "safe."

An unauthorized drive-by download works similarly to an authorized drive-by download attack but is an automated process. Instead of interacting with the compromised part of the website, be that a download link, malicious advert, or otherwise, the malicious website component triggers when you launch the site.

Not all drive-by download attacks look to install a nasty piece of malware on your system. Having anything unexpectedly installed on your computer is worrying, without a doubt. However, not all malicious files are cut from the same cloth.

Drive-by download attacks usually involve the use of an exploit kit. An exploit kit is a pre-packaged collection of exploits that attempt to automatically infect targets using a variety of different drive-by attack methods.

4. Exploitation: If the user is deemed to be an appropriate target, the exploit kit automatically exploits the detected vulnerabilities to initiate the drive-by download. Targets with no suitable vulnerabilities may be ignored or redirected to a landing page that uses social engineering tactics to dupe the user into downloading malware.

5. Execution: The malicious file is executed. Often, this is a multi-stage attack, whereby the initial drive-by download is used to deploy other types of malware. Obfuscation methods are typically used to prevent detection of the drive-by malware throughout the attack.

Adversaries use drive-by downloads as a way of establishing control of a device. Because no user interaction is required, drive-by downloads can be an effective way for threat actors to quietly gain access to a device and use the initial infection as a springboard to perform further malicious activity.


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