Some websites are the Typhoid Mary s of the internet world. These sites are so commonly infected with website viruses, that one click on a virus-infested file could likely leave you with an unwanted piece of malicious code. What do these websites look like? And how can you avoid them?
Like viruses that infect people, computer viruses spread in similar ways. You can pick up a nasty flu by not being careful when you touch something that s been infected. In the same way, certain sites require special vigilance, as they can potentially carry website viruses. You may have heard that porn sites carry more viruses than most sites found on the web. However, a company selling computer security products decided to test that theory in 2010 with a survey conducted over a 30 day period. To the company s surprise, it found mainstream sites are more likely to have infected files. For every infected porn site, the company estimates there to be over 70 non-porn sites infected with website viruses.
A 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence report found mobile workers are over five times more likely to visit sites prohibited by their employers an excellent way to pick up an infection.
Website viruses are often acquired in the process of searching terms connected to famous events or people, or highly popular topics. Those who distribute a virus through the Internet lure potential victims into their scams by launching websites with key words and site content connected to famous people, or current newsworthy events. In August 2010, McAfee, a computer security company that publishes SiteAdvisor - an internet site safety-rating tool - revealed that search terms about Cameron Diaz resulted in the highest risk of being infected. Web searches containing Cameron Diaz resulted in a one out of ten chance of landing on a site containing website viruses. Other places pitching risky business to your computer: sites about Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman.
In another recent study on the chances of picking up a website virus conducted by G Data Software, 16,000 global internet surfers believe adult content sites are the most dangerous for viruses, yet hobby sites will likely have less well-developed protection than those with adult content.
Falling for a website offering scareware is another way to become the victim of website viruses. In April, thousands of websites experienced a malware attack in which website URLs were hacked. If someone tried to visit the hacked legitimate sites, a redirect sent them to sites with viruses that claimed an infection had been detected in the user s PC. It was an effort to convince the victim to use their credit card to buy antivirus software that was, of course, fake. The attack was on a very large scale. In 2011, reports from Websense, a security firm, said a Google search turned up over a million infected URLs.
The best defense is to check the website address bar to see if you have been redirected, and to be extremely skeptical of any sites that issue a warning that your computer is infected and/or attempts to direct you to another site.
Sites that attempt to mimic well-known Fortune 500 companies may also be filled with viruses, and often attempt to lure victims through spam that tries to convince the victim it is from a name-brand firm. When the person clicks on the link they will typically be directed to a website that presents a frightening message like, Please call your bank immediately.
Unauthorized activity has been detected as occurring in your account, or a similar bogus call to action. Website viruses or other scam attempts will likely be waiting there. Check the URL. At times, you may notice that there is a misspelling in the name of the company within the URL address. If so, don t visit that website, unless you want to be infected with website viruses. Computer internet security firms can help consumers avoid toxic sites, and some offer antivirus solutions that will warn you about sites that may contain Trojans or carry computer viruses.
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