Online malware dangers analysed

Google, McAfee release webserver, search result figures.

Two reports out this week have revealed some interesting statistics on the security dangers involved in browsing the Internet, with Google surveying the software running on webservers and which systems carry the most threats, while McAfee's study of search results reveals the dangers lurking in links provided by several major search engines, including Google itself.

The Google figures show that, while Microsoft's IIS webserver software is used to serve only 23% of websites surveyed, compared to 66% for Apache, IIS systems are hosting 49% of malware spotted, on a par with the amount carried by the far more popular Apache-based systems.

Infected webservers based in China and South Korea, long-standing hotspots for malware activity, are much more likely to be running IIS, with less than 25% of malware spotted on Korean sites being served by other software, and an even smaller figure for China. Among the suggested causes of this anomaly is the prevalence of unlicensed or pirated copies of Microsoft software in some parts of the world, which often would not be carrying up-to-date security patches.

The survey goes on to analyse which versions of IIS and Apache are in use, and hosting malware. An overview of the statistics gathered is published on Google's malware blog, here.

McAfee's more detailed report is an analysis of results returned by the five most popular search engines when searches were run for some 2,300 popular search keywords and terms. The results were rated by the SiteAdvisor software to determine 'safety' ratings, with an average of 4.4% of all results returned labelled in some way 'risky'.

AOL was found to be the safest search system, with only 2.9% of results representing a known danger, while Yahoo! was the worst, with 5.4%. Safety in general was found to have improved since the first such survey a year ago, but figures for both Yahoo! and MSN, previously the safest two and now the worst, showed more dangers presented than in the May 2006 study.

The most dangerous search terms were found to be music-related, with 19.1% of results from keywords in the 'Digital Music' category linking to risky sites, and sponsored links were more than twice as likely to lead to dangers as normal results.

The McAfee study was co-authored by SiteAdvisor advisor and spyware expert Ben Edelman. A precis of the results can be found here, while the full study is here.

Recent figures from Sophos (here) reflect these dangers to surfers, with over 9,000 new infected pages spotted per day in May, and a total of over 300,000 for the month. The by-country statistics also show that China dominates, with over 50% of all infected web pages hosted there, while the US is in second place with 27.4%.

Tags: google, malware, mcafee, research. Posted on 06 June 2007 by Virus Bulletin.

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