Domain name .AU in top ten for less risk

Thursday, 28 October, 2010

The world’s most heavily trafficked web domain, .COM, is also now the riskiest and Australia’s .AU domain is the seventh safest country domain, according to McAfee’s fourth annual Mapping the Mal Web report, released this month. Fifty-six percent of all risky sites end in .COM.

McAfee analysed more than 27 million websites to uncover which domains are the most dangerous, finding that.COM and .INFO are the riskiest top-level domains, while .JP (Japan) ranks as the safest country domain for the second year in a row. The report also found that 6.2% of the 27 million websites analysed pose a security risk - up from 5.8% last year.

“This report underscores how quickly cybercriminals change tactics to lure in victims and avoid being caught,” said Paula Greve, director of web security research for McAfee Labs. “Last year Vietnam’s .VN was a relatively safe domain, and this year it jumped to the third most-dangerous domain. Cybercriminals target regions where registering sites is cheap and convenient and pose the least risk of being caught. A domain that’s safe one year can be dangerous the next.”

“Whilst .AU is relatively safe, Australian consumers are increasingly shopping from international locations or booking overseas holidays from global websites,” said Michael Sentonas, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee in Asia Pacific. “Simply viewing a web page can return malicious code that can steal your password and identity information, so Australian should be cautious and not assume that the “most popular” sites are safe havens”.

A top-level domain, also known as a “TLD,” is the letter code at the end of a website that indicates where the site is registered. Most people do not pay attention to the TLD suffix when they search, and many click on the first result that looks interesting. This leaves the surfer vulnerable to criminals who optimise sites for search engines and take advantages of typos such as .CM (Cameroon) instead of .COM.

Country Domain Comparisons

The report reveals drastic changes in country domain rankings with .VN (Vietnam) skyrocketing to third place, up from 39th in 2009. In fact, 58% of the country’s registered sites are ranked as risky.

By contrast, .SG (Singapore) became safer this year, dropping to the 81st most risky domain from 10th in last year’s report. Singapore’s registration process now requires appropriate documentation when seeking to register any .SG site, which helped to improve its safety levels, according to the Singapore Network Information Center. Australia’s domain .AU became safer this year, moving down from 93rd most risky to 98th.

Top five riskiest country web domains (ranked in most risky order)/Overall risk 2010/Overall risk 2009:

  • Vietnam (.VN)/29.4%/.9%
  • Cameroon (.CM)/22.2%/36.7%
  • Armenia (.AM)/12.1%/2.0%
  • Cocos (.CC)/10.5%/3.3%
  • Russia (.RU)/10.1%/4.6%

Top ten safest country web domains (ranked in least risky order)/Overall risk 2010/Overall risk 2009:

  • Japan (.JP)/.1%/.1%
  • Catalan (.CAT)/.1%/.1%
  • Guernsey (.GG)/.1%/.6%
  • Croatia (.HR)/.1%/.1%
  • Ireland (.IE)/.1%/.1%
  • Switzerland/.1%/.2%
  • Australia/.2%/.2%
  • Slovenia/.2%/.3%
  • Iceland/.2%/.3%
  • Denmark/.2%/.2%

Key findings from the 2010 mapping the Mal Web report:

  • Cybercriminals are opportunistic: domain registrars set the guidelines for anyone who wants to register a site. As rules evolve each year, cybercriminals sniff out loopholes and create new ways to set up dangerous sites quickly.
  • A clean domain deters cybercriminals: cybercriminals move away from domains that have tougher restrictions. This year, Singapore (.SG) showed significant improvement.
  • Safest domains: .TRAVEL and .EDU are the safest top-level domains with less than .05% of sites infected, which is one in 2000 sites.
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