Malicious Websites Continue to Grow

14 November 2012

Websites with malicious activity or content continue to grow — making the web a dangerous place for uninformed, unprotected users. The number of malicious URLs increased in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the second quarter of the same year. The number of domain names associated with these URLs also increased slightly.

New suspect URLs continue to grow, with questionable domains contributing to the upward trend. For example, behind a unique IP address, McAfee Labs researchers discovered 110,000 distinct domains. In the third quarter of 2012, McAfee Labs analyzed more than 500,000 domains, compared with 300,000 in previous months. The majority of these suspicious URLs host malware, exploits, or codes that have been designed specifically to compromise computers.

Websites can gain bad or malicious reputations for a variety of reasons. Reputations can be based on full domains and any number of subdomains, as well as on a single IP address or even a specific URL. McAfee Labs researchers rate websites as malicious based on these attributes:

  • Hosting of malware, potentially unwanted programs, or phishing sites
  • Full domains and any number of subdomains, as well as on a single IP address or even a specific URL being associated with malicious activity or content
  • Questionable combinations of code and functionality

McAfee Labs researchers classify these URLs and domains in its databases according to their risk ratings:

  • Over 75% of these URLs are high risk
  • About 40% of suspect domains are high risk

The United States continues to host the most new malicious web content of any country in the world. The domains associated with newly suspect URLs are mainly located in the United States and Switzerland. McAfee Labs researchers also examined the location of servers hosting malicious content. The countries that had the highest number of servers hosting malicious content in their region are Australia, the Bahamas, China, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States.