Hosted in China: Malware-Infested Web Sites
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Online security firm Sophos recently released its August report on malware. There are a few surprises in the report, including one really big one. Guess who leads the world in malware-infested web pages? Hint: it's not the United States.
Okay, granted, the title of this article is a dead giveaway, though it isn't a huge surprise. China was at the top of the list for July as well. But there are a few points about that lead that ARE surprising. The first one is its sheer magnitude. China hosts 44.8 percent of all web pages that have been infected with malware. Lest you think that Sophos may not have drawn a large enough sample, the company examined eight billion web pages to come up with this percentage.
To give you a number for comparison, the second most popular country for hosting malware-infested web pages, the US, came in at under 21 percent. Russia and the Ukraine round out the top four countries for hosting infected sites, with 11.3 percent and 7.7 percent respectively. That's the second surprise in this report -- that the other countries trail China by quite so much, especially the second country on the list.
Can you believe this is actually an improvement for China? You can call this the third surprise that came up in the report, at least if you haven't been keeping up with the items from Sophos. In July, China hosted 53.9 percent of the world's infected web pages. According if Ron O'Brien, senior security analyst for Sophos, the country cleaned up as many computers as it could when Sophos informed them of the problem.
Here's a fourth surprise: a lot of these web sites are not deliberately hosting malware. Think of it as proof of the old saying "Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by..." well, by ignorance in this case. O'Brien estimates that about 80 percent of the sites in China that are hosting malware have owners/administrators that don't even know it.
The reason for this is the current economic climate in China. Despite -- or possibly even because of -- the legendary Great Firewall of China, the country's web is spreading fast enough to keep a million spiders employed. Observers have drawn parallels to what's happening in China with the first dot-com boom in the United States, back in the early to mid-1990s, when the important thing was getting your site and business set up, and security was secondary. In an interview with internetnews.com, O'Brien explained that "It has to do with the number of PCs that are unprotected, and the Chinese web sites have demonstrated that they are easier to hack into...There is a large number of Web sites run by small mom-and-pop organizations that don't use the most sophisticated security."
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