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33% of Malware Encountered on US websites?

According to the latest research by networking giant Cisco, 33.14% of encounters with computer viruses are at websites hosted in the US. That’s not too much of a surprise given that most of the internet exists on .com domains – what’s really interesting is how evenly spread malware is across countries.

Most people associate malware with eastern European and Chinese websites – and while it’s true that 9.79% of encounters with viruses came from websites in Russia, both it and China fell behind the new second and third place countries – Denmark and Sweden.

In a strange twist, the normally safe Nordic countries actually accounted for almost a tenth of computer virus encounters on the web last year. Russia is in fourth place, while Germany (6.11%) is actually above China (5.65%) as a destination for encountering malware.

It just goes to show that the web is truly a global place, with malware popping up in large numbers even where you wouldn’t expect it. And the “danger zones” of Eastern Europe and China? They may actually be a thing of the past.

If your country is higher on the rankings than you assumed, it’s likely because of “malvertising” – the delivery of malware via online adverts. This type of threat has increased massively in 2012, and is quite country-neutral due to its nature.

Encountering malvertising typically occurs when visiting a normal website that displays third-party adverts. Websites earn money from displaying these adverts, with the finances and hosting of the content controlled by an external agency.

While this allows our favourite websites to earn the money needed to stay online, it also means that those same sites are at a slight risk of serving us malware. That’s not to say all advertising creates a risk – it’s just that some advertising dealers could be fooled into publishing adverts that distribute malware.

Cisco claims that it is these malvertising risks, and the increased popularity of social media and entertainment, that are largely responsible for increased encounters from sites originating in Sweden and Denmark – and not that the web is an intrinsically unsafe place in northern Europe.

So, you’re equally at risk whatever website you visit – is that comforting or scary?

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