‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is a popular maxim we are all familiar with. And it’s a tenet that malicious hackers also abide by.

Drive-by downloads are a popular hacking method that have been used for years and their use shows no signs of abating.

A drive-by download refers to the unintentional download of a virus or malicious software onto your computer or mobile device. 
  • You just need to visit or ‘drive by a web page, without stopping to click or accept any software and the malicious code can download in the background. 
  • Just opening a compromised web page could allow dangerous code to install on your device. 
  • A drive-by download will usually exploit a browser, app, or operating system that is out of date and has a security flaw. 
  • The initial code that is downloaded is often very small because its function is often simply to contact another computer where it can pull down the rest of the code onto the compromised device. 
  • Often, a web page will contain several different types of malicious code, in the hope that one of them will match a weakness on your computer.

These downloads can be placed on innocent and normal-looking websites. You might receive a link in an email, text message, or social media post that tells you to look at something interesting on a site. When you open the page the download installs on your device.

Staying safe

BullGuard protects against websites that hide malicious ‘drive-by’ code by keeping track of web addresses that have a history of malicious or suspicious behaviour. It then flags up these sites as ‘suspicious’ if you visit them. 
To stay safe, avoid using websites that could be considered dangerous or malicious, including adult content, and file-sharing websites:
  • Keep your internet browser and operating system up to date
  • Use a safe search tool that warns you when you navigate to a malicious site
  • Use comprehensive security software on all your devices, like BullGuard Internet Security

Common drive-by exploits

For your information here are some prominent systems and applications that are commonly exploited by drive-by download attacks:
  • Old operating systems
  • Browsers such as FireFox, Chrome, Opera, and others, especially out of date versions
  • Out of date browser plug-ins
  • Early versions of Microsoft Office
  • Adobe/Shockwave Flash (ActiveX)
  • Adobe Reader
  • WinZip
  • Microsoft Silverlight
  • Oracle Java