Porn sites pose growing malware risk to users

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Some of the internet’s most popular pornography websites are increasingly putting visitors at risk new research has found.Porn sites pose growing malware risk to usersAdvertisements displayed by the sites, which are visited by millions every day, were found to be installing harmful files without users’ knowledge.

Researchers found that two popular sites – xhamster and pornhub – posed the greatest risk.

They found that it was primarily Windows users who at most risk, but that criminals were increasingly turning their attentions to mobile devices.

While none of the porn sites observed hosted any malware themselves, it was the embedded advertisements within their pages that created problems for users.

“We call these malicious advertisements ‘malvertising’,” explained Mr Longmore. “The way the ads are bought and sold across all websites is incredibly complex.”

“Ads can often be repackaged and resold so that it is hard to tell where they originated from, and the criminals behind them go to great lengths to disguise what they are doing.”

Mr Longmore compiled his figures using Google’s diagnostic advice service, which regularly analyses websites for harmful content.

The data showed that xhamster – listed by monitoring firm Alexa as the 46th most popular site on the internet – had malvertising on 1,067 out of 20,986 pages (5%) screened in the past 90 days.

According to Alexa’s statistics, the average user of xhamster would look at 10.3 individual pages – meaning a potential 42% risk of stumbling across harmful adverts in each viewing session.

Another site, pornhub, was found to have dangerous advertising on 12.7% of the 14016 pages scanned in the 90 day period.

Mr Longmore said: “There seems to have been a sudden spike in malware on popular sites, especially in the past week or so. “

He added that in a similar study 12 months ago, the web’s most popular porn site, xvideos, was serving up malware via banner advertising.

However, in the more recent research, the site was not found to have any harmful adverts in the time sampled by Google’s system – a sign the site had “cleaned up”.

Mr Longmore believes a culture of users being afraid to “kick up a fuss” meant many instances of malvertising go unreported.

“Part of the problem is that porn is a taboo subject,” he said.

“But the reality is that these are hugely popular sites with many of them in the top 100 most popular sites globally. Some of them pull in more traffic than the BBC, so this is potentially a very big issue.”

Given that some recent research at a USA university could not find a single student who had not looked at porn sites- malvertising could be a growing problem.

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