Nearly one million new malware threats are released every day. Malware, short for malicious software, is used to gather sensitive data, gain unauthorized access to websites and even hijack computers. There are a variety of ways a cybercriminal can use malware to infect your website. Not to mention all of the different malware types and purposes. Not only can malware harm your website but it can harm your visitors, too.

Exploiting Vulnerabilities with Malware

When a cyber criminal finds vulnerabilities in your website, they are quick to attack. First, they’ll decide why they want to access your site. Then based on their intent, they’ll determine the type of malware to use.

Website Vulnerabilities

The more feature rich your website is, the more vulnerable it is to attack. Many website owners want to create an engaging user experience by offering photos, videos, shopping carts, and other dynamic elements. Research conducted by SiteLock and staff from the Wharton School of Business found that websites with high complexity can be 10 times more likely to be compromised than websites with low complexity. However, these types of complex code and third-party applications make a website susceptible to web application vulnerabilities. For example, a URL redirect is a popular web application vulnerability, in which the attacker will redirect a user to a malicious website in an effort to steal traffic and information.

Check out our blog posts titled, “The Importance of Securing your Web Applications” to learn more about web apps.

Server Vulnerabilities

Attackers can spread malware to a website through its server. When a server has vulnerabilities, a hacker can exploit them by uploading malicious code or even an entire web page to the site. This will then deliver malware to the website’s visitors.

Malware Types

Malware is a blanket term used to describe many different types of harmful software. You might hear someone say they have a website “virus,” but did you know that a virus is actually just a specific type of malware? Here are a few examples:

what is malware


Much like how a virus in the body can spread from one person to another, a website virus can do the same. A virus will spread itself across computers and websites, infecting other files along the way. Viruses are known to hide in email attachments, display advertisements and can crash your website or computer.


what is malware

Trojan Horse

A Trojan horse (or Trojan) is a sneaky type of malware that disguises itself as a seemingly legitimate file or software. The term “Trojan” comes from the ancient Greek myth where Greek troops hid inside a wooden horse to invade Troy. Just like the story, Trojans hide in the background and can perform nearly any task, like modify and delete your files.


what is malware


Adware is a form of malware that displays unwanted ads on your screen. It is often designed to collect data on your browsing history. It tracks the sites you visit and sends that information back to the website owner. The website owner will then deliver advertisements based on the information tracked. Not only is Adware an annoyance, but it’s also considered an invasion of privacy.

Malware Uses

Malware is used for many different purposes, which is one of the reasons why it’s so popular among cyber criminals. Malware can be used to:

  • Hijack a user’s session or computer
  • Steal confidential data (like credit card info and SSNs)
  • Compromise a website user’s login information
  • Make fraudulent purchases
  • Launch DDoS attacks
  • Create spam
  • Boost SEO rankings for a specific site (often a competitor’s)

Malware Consequences

If your website is infected with malware, it could potentially harm the visitors on your site. Malware infected websites have the ability to install malicious software on a user’s computer to steal private information and attack other computers.

what is malware

Google blacklists about 10,000 websites each day. When a website is blacklisted, Google will temporarily remove it from its index. Google is constantly scanning the web for suspicious activity. If it in fact deems a site as suspicious, it will blacklist it. In some cases, websites can be down for days at a time, interrupting sales and customer inquiries. While Google does its best at blacklisting websites, you shouldn’t entirely rely on its notifications. Make sure you or your website developer are using website security best practices to keep your site secure.

Check out our blog post titled, “Blacklisting: Why you want SiteLock reviewing your site before Google does” to learn more.

Now that we know what malware is and how it works, we need to learn how to get rid of it… and fast. Learn about your next steps in “How to Remove Malware From My Website,” and visit SiteLock for more information on protecting your website from malware.