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9/28/2010
05:49 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
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News Sites, Searches May Be Riskier Than Porn

Steer clear of gambling, porn and other known risky sites and related searches and you and your employees -- and your business -- are safer, right? Not according to a new Websense study which found that leading news and pop culture sites, and hot-trend search terms may be more dangerous than some of the ones you're steering clear of.

Steer clear of gambling, porn and other known risky sites and related searches and you and your employees -- and your business -- are safer, right? Not according to a new Websense study which found that leading news and pop culture sites, and hot-trend search terms may be more dangerous than some of the ones you're steering clear of.If you and your employees stick to the most popular news, game, social network sites and message boards, you're still never more than two clicks away from malware, the Websense study reports.

In other words, when it comes to protecting yourself by proscribing your company's surfing and searching habits, you're damned if you don't, but you may also be damned if you do.

The cause is a combination of increased automation and thus ubiquity on the part of the malware community, and the increased use of partner sites and links -- often not previewed, obviously -- by legit sites.

According to Websense, no more than two clicks away from malware or other dangerous content are:

"More than 70 percent of top news and media sites More than 70 percent of the top message boards and forums More than 50 percent of social networking sites"

Here's a startling one: more than 60% of sites linking to games also contain links to toxic sites, while less than 25% of sex-related sites contain malicious links.

(Not that this is any reason to alter your policies related to objectionable material, of course.)

Search-poisoning is just as bad. Celebrity and other hot topics have always been malware-attractors, but less newsworthy searches are becoming riskier as well. Do a search for baby bedding in London, Websense found, and a full 30% of the results returned will be poisonous.

It's not exactly breaking news that spammers and malware creators are following hot trends and popular topics, zapping the zeitgeist as it were, with toxic links. But the Websense study shows just how pervasively the bad guys are going after you and your employees via your supposedly safe surfing and searching habits.

Whatever your company's policies are regarding employee Web usage, these finding are a good reminder to remind your employees that just because a link is on a reputable site, there's no guarantee that the link isn't compromised.

Even when they're surfing and searching safely, they have more reason than ever to be careful. To be, in fact, wary, and take one or two very deep breaths before clicking anything.

And certainly before that second click.

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