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Clicking Online Ads More Likely To Deliver Malware Than Surfing Porn Sites, Report Finds

By Andrea Peterson  

"Clicking Online Ads More Likely To Deliver Malware Than Surfing Porn Sites, Report Finds"

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Your online habits may be less dangerous than you think if they involve the less savory aspects of the web: According to Cisco’s annual 2013 Security Report internet users are 182 times more likely to get malware from clicking on online ads than visiting a porn site. It turns out, the site on the gray or black market edges of the web most of us traditionally think of as dangerous aren’t the biggest threats to your online security, instead:

“The dangers […] are often hidden in plain sight through exploit-laden online ads that are distributed to legitimate websites, or hackers targeting the user community on the common sites they use most.”

Those common sites include online shopping and search engines, which were 21 and 27 times more likely respectively to deliver malicious content than counterfeit software sites according to Cisco. Unsurprisingly, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports of the 81% of American adults who use the internet some 91 percent report using search engines to find information and 71 percent buy products online.

Of course, many online users (around 10 percent according to one 2012 study) are already using ad-blocking software to avoid being served possibly malicious ads. And the proportion of online resources and time devoted to racy material is up for debate, with just 4 percent of the 1 million most popular of sites in 2010 revolving around sex and 13 percent of searches being for erotic content.

Beyond the eye-catching numbers about the relative safety of surfing for porn, the Cisco report identifies a number of other emerging threats — key among them the rise of Android malware exploits and the possible info-security minefield represented by the internet of things.

Android malware grew much faster than any other form of web delivered malware, with a staggering 2,577 percent increase in malware encounters over 2012. Although only .5 percent of web malware encounters in 2012 were on mobile devices, 95 percent of them were on Android devices — not great news considering Android now controls a majority of the smartphone market.

When it comes to the ever expanding internet of things, much of Cisco’s commentary was speculative – but the core argument rings true: With great connection, comes great responsibility. And there will be great connection:

“Considering that less than 1 percent of things in the physical world are connected today, there remains vast potential to “connect the unconnected.” It is projected that with an Internet that already has an estimated 50 billion “things” connected to it, the number of connections will increase to 13,311,666,640,184,600 by the year 2020.”

Here’s hoping they all don’t serve malware-laced ads, or it could mean trouble.

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