Common Threats

It's important to understand common threats so that you can protect yourself. In addition, you also need to understand the potential dangers so that you can help ensure that your own emails and your own website do not become vehicles for spreading web based problems.  

Let's take a look at some of the terminology you might come across.


Adware can sometimes be attached to free downloadable software. Adware will display advertising through pop-ups and may monitor your browsing habits to serve up targeted advertising. This software is not always malicious but it can be aggressive and annoying. Furthermore, it can serve up unsuitable and potentially malicious third party content. 



Unbeknownst to their owners, it is possible for thousands of computers across the world to be infected with malicious software that allows someone else to control them remotely. Armies of these infected "zombie" PCs are called botnets. A botnet can be used to initiate a coordinated attack on a particular organisation and cause their network to fail. This is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack

Sometimes, a television or radio show may mention a particular company or website address causing members of the audience to visit it at the same time and the website will crash as a result. This is an (innocent) example of the effect of a DDoS event. 

Different websites will have different levels of 'normal' traffic and when a website or a network is flooded with unexpected, unsolicited traffic, it can cause it to slow down or even fail. Sometimes malware authors will activate a Botnet to maliciously target a network in this way causing services to become unavailable. 

It is unlikely that your website will ever be the specific target of one of these attacks, but your website is hosted on the same server network as several thousand other websites. If the hosting network should be targeted, your web services would be affected. But don't panic - there are security features in place and any service disruption would be temporary.


Just like a burglar breaking in to your home, ransacking it and making off with your possessions, hackers are particularly nasty pieces of work. These are individuals or groups that will deliberately try to "break in" to a website, to take control of it for their own purposes or to destroy it altogether. Some will do it just to say "that they can" while others will have more sinister motives. 


Malware is malicious software that is in unknowingly installed on a victim's computer having opened an infected email or visited an infected website. The term 'Malware' includes all forms of unauthorised software installations including viruses, trojans, spyware, and ransomware.


Phishing is an attempt by a criminal to acquire private and / or sensitive information using email, telephone or fake websites (spoofing). The fraudsters will masquerade as a well known or seemingly legitimate business - typically a company that you might actually deal with such as a bank, a retail outlet or even a social network. They could even use the name and email address of one of your friends, just to get your attention.


If infected, this malware can lock your system and your files and threaten to delete them or to disclose private information to others unless a ransom is paid.


Spoofing is a tool that is used by a criminal to masquerade as a legitimate organisation for the purpose of phishing personal information or to spread malicious software or intent. The fraudsters will pose as a legitimate organisation to fool their victim. They may use an email or website address that at first glance seems legitimate. An email may use logos and terminology to fool you into believing that they have your information and lure you into calling a fake telephone number or visit a phoney website. Again, on first glance a spoof website may seem legitimate. They will think nothing of using company logos and registering domain names that are similar to those they are spoofing.


Spyware are small pieces of malware that are designed to spy on you, monitoring surfing habits and harvesting your passwords and credit card details.


This is a form of malware which can be hidden in an email, on a website or in a piece of software. It can sit on an infected system and be used to 'inject' more dangerous software. 


Just like the biological version, a virus is a contagious infection which can spread to other unprotected systems if a user opens an infected email or visits a compromised website. If a website administrator accesses their website using an infected PC, they also risk uploading the virus to their website and then their website and its visitors run the risk of infection too. While some viruses are harmless, others can cause catastrophic damage, damaging core settings and corrupting files. 


A worm will work its way through an entire network, whether at home or office level, or to a wider group of users. As one device becomes infected, the worm will identify and attempt to spread to others that share the same network.