A watering hole attack is a security exploit in which the attacker seeks to compromise a specific group of end users by infecting websites that members of the group are known to visit. The goal is to infect a targeted user's computer and gain access to the network at the target's place of employment.
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The name watering hole attack is inspired by predators in the natural world who lurk near watering holes, looking for opportunities to attack desired prey. In a watering hole attack, the predator lurks near niche websites popular with the target prey, looking for opportunities to infect the websites with malware or malvertisements that will make the target vulnerable.
While watering hole attacks are uncommon, they pose a considerable threat since they are difficult to detect and typically target high-security organizations through their low-security employees, business partners, connected vendors or an unsecured wireless network.
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