US tops spread of malware

Thursday, 11 March, 2010

AVG (AU/NZ), a distributor of anti-virus software, has unveiled the results of an AVG Technologies research study which shows that - contrary to popular opinion - most malicious websites are hosted on US servers and not in other countries like China.

The AVG research study is based on the analysis of threats reported during the last 6 months from AVG’s 110 million worldwide users of its AVG LinkScanner web security product. The research indicates an increase in malware-serving websites targeting end users, which typically focus on stealing online banking credentials, credit card information, personal identities and passwords to social sites.

The detection and analysis of exploits was based on AVG’s crowd-sourced methods for analysing web content for malicious or dangerous intent as reported by AVG’s vast network of LinkScanner installations worldwide. AVG’s research shows that malicious code is not just an issue with outlaw servers located in countries with weak laws and lax enforcement. Monitoring active web servers serving exploits around the world indicates that 44% of the corrupted servers are hosted in the US, followed by Germany and China at just 5% each. Many of these malware-serving websites are legitimate sites compromised by hackers to serve exploits on their behalf. In total, exploitive servers were found in nearly 4600 locations throughout the US.

It is important to note that this research makes no statement about who owns or is directing the efforts of these servers - for those criminals and/or criminal networks could be anywhere in the world - and they are.

“The results of this study shatter the myth that malicious code is primarily hosted in countries where e-crime laws are less developed,” said Karel Obluk, Chief Technology Officer, AVG Technologies. “Our research shows that malicious content is much more likely to show up on web servers in the US than one in Asia or Eastern Europe. This makes perfect sense since the US is a primary target market for the criminals and has rich and mature internet infrastructure making the threats both highly accessible and cheap to host. What is most striking is the clear rise in the number of malicious servers in the last six months. Today’s hacking techniques are highly evasive so the average user cannot tell if a website is serving malware or not. A web security product is needed.”

Obluk continued, “Even more important to note is that, on average during this six-month period, about 50% of the domains hosted on these servers were online and hosting threats only one day or less. This transient nature makes them very hard to find and add to traditional reputation-based protection systems in time to be helpful to users.”

“As a preventative measure, users should look for web security protection when going online,” said Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager, AVG (AU/NZ). "Today's bad guys are smarter and create threats that are more sophisticated, hiding in legitimate websites that are sometimes poisoned for less than a day. This makes a real-time solution like AVG LinkScanner absolutely critical to protect against web-based threats."

AVG LinkScanner is free and is included as a part of all AVG antivirus and internet security products. AVG LinkScanner can be used also as a free stand-alone product delivering extra protection alongside other brands of antivirus and internet security software. AVG LinkScanner, or AVG's other free security products, can be downloaded at: www.avgfree.com.au.

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