The Web is more dangerous, and U.S. is biggest culprit

A pair of reports reveal a rising level of vulnerabilities and infections on the World Wide Web.

As e-mail security has improved, the Web now is the primary route used to infect computers, and the United States has the dubious distinction of hosting the most infected sites and having the most compromised computers relaying spam, according to two recent reports on Internet security.

WhiteHat Security Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., reported in its Website Security Statistics Report that 82 percent of Web sites it examined had at least one vulnerability that could leave them open to attack and exploitation, and that 63 percent had vulnerabilities that are rated at high, critical or urgent severity.

WhiteHat Security uses the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) Threat Classification for classifying vulnerabilities and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) severity system to rate vulnerability severity.

According to the latest Security Threat Report from IT security company Sophos of Boston, the United States hosts 37 percent of the online malware, beating out China for the No. 1 spot. Between them, the United States and China account for nearly two-thirds of the malicious code hosted on Web sites. A whopping 97 percent of business e-mail is classified as spam, and compromised computers in this country also seem to be sending out a disproportionate amount of it—more than 17 percent of the world total, the highest amount for a single country, the company found.

“We would like to see the States making less of an impact on the charts in the coming year,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “American computers, whether knowingly or not, are making a disturbingly large contribution to the problems of viruses and spam affecting all of us today.”

The problem is a vicious circle, with visitors becoming infected by malicious code hosted on legitimate Web sites. Once compromised, the PC can be used to send spam which can contain malicious code or drive more traffic to infected Web sites.

Sophos said that new infected Web pages are appearing at the rate of one every 4.5 seconds, and its labs are receiving 20,000 new samples of suspected malicious code every day.

The SQL injection attack, which exploits security vulnerabilities to insert malicious code into the database running a site, has emerged as one of the primary ways of infecting legitimate sites. If data supplied to the site by a visitor is not correctly checked, the malicious code peppers the database with malicious instructions that can compromise subsequent visitors.

WhiteHat reported that site operators are slow to fix vulnerabilities allowing such attacks. The time-to-fix identified vulnerabilities is in the range of weeks or even months. During the period of its most recent study, from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 1, 2008, only about half of the most prevalent urgent security issues it identified were solved.

Exploiting the vulnerabilities in Web sites is becoming easier, as hacking becomes more automated, Sophos said. Tools use commercial search engines to identify potentially vulnerable sites and inject malicious code. Most of the sites are not being specifically targeted but are caught by automated tools.

At the same time, criminals are building more of their own malicious Web sites and using automated systems to plant links to these sites in legitimate blogs and forums, directing traffic to the malicious sites.

Another way of driving traffic to malicious sites is scareware. The bad guys set up phony Web sites offering malicious faux security scanning and tools, and then bring traffic into the sites with spam and other tricks to convince a user that a PC already is infected. Sophos reported seeing an average of five new scareware Web sites a day, with as many as 20 being seen on a single day.

With worsening economic conditions, things are likely to get worse before they get better, Cluley said.

“As we enter 2009, we are not expecting to see these assaults diminish,” he said. “As economies begin to enter recession, it will be more important than ever for individuals and businesses to ensure that they are on guard against Internet attack.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.