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Risk

Malware Targeting Top News Sites, Message Boards

By poisoning popular sites with malicious content, attackers ensure that web surfers are never more than two clicks away from a threat, says Websense report.




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Malware is all around. Indeed, according to research from information security firm Websense, "no matter how careful you are, today's Internet user is only two short clicks away from malicious content and an infected computer or network," at least for the Internet's top 1,000 websites. That "two degrees of malware separation" applies to 70% of top news sites, 70% of leading message boards, and 50% of social networking sites.

In its new research into malware trends, Websense identified the top three paths that lead to malware as: websites, poisoned search results, and malicious links, the latter typically spread by spam emails and phishing campaigns.

Some websites are more dangerous than others, as attackers more often target the web's most popular destinations, rather than obscure locations, no doubt trying to compromise as many users as possible before the attack they're using gets spotted and blocked.

Attackers often successfully unite users with malware through the use of an "extensive network of partner sites that they are linked to," according to Websense. For example, "62% of the sites that link to games also link to something objectionable or a security risk." The same goes for about 25% of blogs. Beyond attackers' technical acumen, the sheer quantity of attack attempts makes it difficult for websites to stop and eliminate every one.

Links on Facebook are another risk. Websense said that roughly 40% of all Facebook status updates include a link, and that 10% of those links lead to spam or malicious code.

Another interesting finding is that when it comes to risk levels, "popular beats porn," said Websense, which found that "you have a higher chance of running into malicious content from a 'breaking trends' search such as a 'World Cup 2010' than you do from sexual content searches." At one point, one-quarter of all World Cup search results were malicious.

If there's one commonality to how attackers operate, it's their creativity: they're constantly varying their attacks, especially when it comes to search engine poisoning. "Cybercriminals are poisoning search results with malicious links for top trends at a startling rate," according Websense. "For example, searches for trending news and buzz words increased from 14% in early 2010, to 22% a few months later."

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