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Study: Online ads far more likely to spread malware than porn

SecurityNews
by Stephanie Mlot, 04 Feb 2013News
Study: Online ads far more likely to spread malware than porn

Networking giant Cisco has announced that you are more likely to catch a computer virus shopping online than surfing for pornography.

The company revealed details from two global studies which found that security is a rising concern for businesses and individuals who increasingly blend their work and personal lives via mobile devices.

Cisco's 2013 Annual Security Report (ASR) revealed that the highest concentration of online security threats are found not among pornography, pharmaceutical, or gambling sites, but instead on major search engines, retail pages, and social media outlets.

According to the ASR, online shopping sites are 21 times more likely and search engines 27 times more likely to deliver a malicious package to your PC as a counterfeit software site. But neither compare to online advertisements, which are the riskiest of all - ads are 182 times more likely to gift you a virus than scouring the web for porn, according to Cisco.

That's not to say pornography is always safe, just relatively so. Watching online porn can still lead to viruses, and not the kind that itch.

Meanwhile, people who mix work-related and personal online activity on smartphones and other mobile devices are at high risk for security glitches, according to Cisco. That's particularly the case for Generation Y mobile device users whom the company described as constantly checking social media, email, and texts.

"That lifestyle is entering work environments in greater numbers, spotlighting the future of work and how companies must consider competing for the next wave of talent. Unfortunately, what the security studies show is the next-generation workforce's lifestyles are also introducing security challenges that companies have never had to address on this scale," Cisco said in a news release.

Based on the Cisco Connected World Technology Report's survey results, most Gen Y employees (91 per cent) said they believe the age of privacy is over, while one third were not worried about the data about them stored online.

"They are willing to sacrifice personal information for socialization online," Cisco said. Remarkably, most global Gen Y workers said they feel more comfortable sharing personal details with retail sites than with their own employers' IT departments.

"Today, we live a blended work-personal life," Cisco Global Government and Corporate Security senior vice president John Stewart said. "The hackers know this, and the security threats that we encounter online such as embedded Web malware while visiting popular destinations like search engines, retailers, social media sites, and smartphone/tablet apps no longer threaten only the individual; they threaten our organizations by default."

Cisco also reports that the US still leads the pack in global Web malware, with more than 33 per cent of all infections beating second place Russia on 9.79 per cent. In a year, China dropped from being the second-most malware-stricken country in 2011 to the sixth spot last year, falling behind Scandanavian countries like Denmark (9.55 per cent) and Sweden (9.27 per cent).

According to the studies, Android malware encounters grew 2,577 percent over 2012, though mobile malware still represents only 0.5 per cent of total Web virus instances. Cisco also warned of scams that involve spoofed brands like prescription drugs Viagra and Cialis, as well as luxury watches like Rolex and Omega.

Check online for the full 72-page 2013 Cisco Annual Security Report.

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