Free Video Downloader

Fast and free all in one video downloader

For Example:


Copy shareable video URL


Paste it into the field


Click to download button

What Is a Watering Hole Attack and Are You at Risk?
December 23, 2022

What Is a Watering Hole Attack and Are You at Risk?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Imagine a watering hole in the wild. Predators can target their prey by converging on such a site. An online watering hole works similarly…

A watering hole attack, as a term, is derived from hunting. Instead of following a prey to take it down, a hunter can figure out its most likely destination (usually a body of water) and set a trap there. Eventually, if all goes according to the hunter’s plan, the target will of their free will fall into the trap.

Similarly, cybercriminals use watering hole attacks to set traps and wait for unaware victims to fall prey. So what are these attacks? And how can you protect against watering hole attacks?

What Is a Watering Hole Attack?

In a watering hole attack, the attacker targets a specific website or group of websites known to be frequented by the victims they are trying to compromise. The idea behind this cyberattack is to ‘poison the watering hole’ by compromising the targeted website(s) and then waiting for the victims to visit; at this point, they will be infected with malware.

When a watering hole attack is successful, the attacker can take control of the victim’s systems, allowing them to steal data or install malicious programs such as ransomware or keyloggers. The attackers may also use the compromised systems to launch further attacks, such as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) or phishing campaigns.

How Do Attackers Carry Out Watering Hole Attacks?

Watering hole attacks are a type of Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) used by cybercriminals to gain access to a specific organization’s network. These attacks get their name from the watering hole concept, suggesting that attackers target a site frequented by a particular group of people to gain access to them.

The most common type of watering hole attack is one where the cybercriminals target a website known to be popular among members of a particular organization or demographic. For example, they might focus on an alum website, a site related to a specific industry, or even a social media platform.

Once the attacker has identified the website, they will then inject malicious code into the website. This code may be designed to redirect visitors to a malicious site, deliver malware, steal personal information, or launch further attacks against visitors. In some cases, the malicious code may take advantage of flaws in the website’s security system and exploit it for access to the visitor’s computer.

Note that hackers can also use watering hole attacks against organizations’ websites. In this case, the attacker may place malicious code on the website and use it to gain access to the organization’s networks.

7 Notable Examples of Watering Hole Attacks

There have been several notable watering hole attacks over the past few years.

1. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Attack

In 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the target of a watering hole attack. The hackers could gain access to the organization’s internal networks by exploiting a vulnerability in their website. They were then able to steal large amounts of confidential information.

2. Chinese Military Attack

In 2013, the Chinese military was the target of a similar attack. The hackers infiltrated their networks by exploiting a vulnerability in a popular social media site used by members of the military. The attack resulted in the theft of sensitive documents related to the Chinese military’s strategy and operations.

3. TV5Monde Attack

In 2015, the French television network TV5Monde was the target of a watering hole attack. Hackers could gain access to the station’s systems by exploiting a vulnerability in a third-party web application. The hackers then proceeded to delete data, hijack accounts, and disrupt TV5Monde’s programming for more than 17 hours.

4. Red October Attack

There was also the Red October attack. In 2012, the Russian government launched a massive cyberattack targeting diplomatic, governmental, and scientific research institutions in over 30 countries. The attack was carried out by a group of hackers known as the Red October gang.

5. Pony Botnet Attack

The Pony Botnet attack took place in 2013 and targeted 1.58 million user accounts across various sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo. The malicious software was designed to steal information from user accounts and send it to remote servers.

6. Reveton Attack

The Reveton attack occurred in 2014. Hackers exploited a Windows vulnerability to install Reveton ransomware on thousands of computers worldwide. The malware would lock users out of their systems until a ransom was paid.

7. VPNFilter Attack

In the VPNFilter attack of 2018, the FBI warned that a strain of malware called VPNFilter had infected over 500,000 home and small office routers around the world. The malware collected personal information, launched DDoS attacks, and even manipulated data on infected devices.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Watering Hole Attacks?

It’s easy to understand why watering hole attacks are so dangerous and why you should be worried about them. They can cause significant damage to your systems and networks and also steal confidential data such as credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information.

Fortunately, you can protect yourself from this type of attack. Here are a few tips:

  • Monitor your network for any suspicious activity or changes in performance.
  • Keep your systems up-to-date by regularly patching vulnerabilities.
  • Employ a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect against known threats.
  • Educate yourself and your staff on the latest security measures.
  • Regularly review access control policies and make sure they are being followed.
  • Use encryption whenever possible.
  • Install antivirus and anti-malware software.
  • Employ a multi-layered approach to security.

While no system is ever completely secure, implementing these measures will help you stay safe and reduce the risk of being targeted.

Drying Out Watering Hole Attacks

Watering hole attacks pose a serious threat to businesses, organizations, and individual users, so it is vital to protect yourself from these types of attacks.

Ensure that all systems are regularly patched and updated with the latest security updates. Avoid visiting suspicious websites or clicking on unknown links or attachments. Also, use strong passwords and two-factor authentication wherever possible. And consider using web application firewalls or other security solutions to protect your network from malicious code and unauthorized access.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *