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Porn sites safer to browse than blogs, personal sites: report

Internet security threat report
Symantec

Symantec has just issued its Internet Security Threat Report (PDF), summarizing the threats, hacks, and stats of the last year in online security. The take-home point is that dumb mass threats like spam are going down, but sophisticated targeted threats like clickjacking are up.

Furthermore, the most common Web threats weren't found, as one might assume, on the seedier side of the Internet. In fact, it's the righteous who appear to be the more seriously afflicted:

It is interesting to note that Web sites hosting adult/porno-graphic content are not in the top five, but ranked tenth.Moreover, religious and ideological sites were found to have triple the average number of threats per infected site than adult/pornographic sites. We hypothesize that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the Internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free – it’s not good for repeat business.

Around 52 million of the 8.2 billion URLs Symantec scanned showed malware infections, and of those, only 2.4 percent were porn or adult content. Personal blogs and self-hosted websites were many, many times more likely to have a problem.

The computer security company claims to have blocked 5.5 billion malicious attacks during 2011, up 81 percent from 2010. This only represents a small fraction of all attacks, both blocked and unblocked, but it is definitely indicative of a serious trend. Sharing on social networks and an increasing reliance on our Web browsers and devices for everyday tasks are both to blame for the increase.

But hacks are becoming more sophisticated. It's no longer about a billion fraudulent emails being sent out, but a single, targeted, browser hijack of a VP at a company that has access to sensitive information. It's just more effective to put more effort into attacking a weak, yet important link in the chain.

Naturally, Symantec recommends its own product as part of its best practices for consumers, but also such basic measures as keeping your browser up to date and enabling a firewall. It's an increasingly complex task to keep yourself safe and secure on the Internet, but it's also more important than ever. Caution and a little familiarity with your software will go a long way toward preventing infection or identity theft.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website is coldewey.cc.