McAfee names most risky domains


13 Mar 2007

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Ireland has the second least risky country domain name (.ie), according to a new report by McAfee. The report found that internet users make more than 550 million clicks to risky websites a month.

The McAfee SiteAdvisor research report, entitled Mapping the Mal Web, ranked 265 top-level domains based on McAfee’s web safety tests for spyware, spam, exploits and scams. It revealed large differences in safety from one domain to another.

Overall, 4.1pc of all sites tested by SiteAdvisor were deemed to have a level of risk.

The most risky large country domains are Romania (.ro), with 5.6pc of sites using this domain name found to be risky, and Russia (.ru), with 4.5pc risky sites. These country domains are also the most likely to host exploit or ‘drive-by-download’ sites, the report said.

Of generic domain names, .info is the riskiest, with 7.5pc of its sites rated risky; .com is the second most risky generic domain, with 5.5pc of sites rated risky.

McAfee based the report on its extensive site database of 8.1 million of the most trafficked websites, representing more than 95pc of the trafficked web.

It used its SiteAdvisor tool to add intuitive red, yellow or green ratings to sites and search results based on proprietary tests of the sites. Red ratings are given to risky sites that fail one or more of McAfee’s tests for adware, spyware, viruses, exploits, spam email, excessive pop-ups or strong affiliations with other red-rated sites. Green-rated sites passed each of these tests. Yellow ratings are given to sites which pass McAfee’s safety tests but which still have nuisances, such as excessive pop-ups, warranting a user advisory.

Even though the .com domain is only the 5th most risky domain by
rank, its huge popularity magnifies its impact on search and browsing risk dramatically. Some 86.6pc of clicks to red and yellow rated sites go to .com sites.

Similarly, for relatively safe country domains by rank such as the Netherlands (.nl), Germany (.de) and the United Kingdom (.uk), which rank 31st, 33rd and 51st most risky respectively, each of their country domains account for more than two million clicks to red and yellow sites each month. Japan (.jp) is ranked 57th most risky but red- and yellow-rated .jp sites receive 1.6 million clicks each month.

The least risky country domains are Finland (.fi, 0.10pc), Ireland (.ie, 0.11pc) Norway (.no, 0.16pc), Iceland (.is, 0.19pc) and Sweden (.se, 0.21pc).

The most risky domain is the tiny island of Tokelau, which had 10.1pc of its sites labeled a risk.

The domain of US government agencies, .gov, is the only frequently tested domain for which McAfee found no risky sites.

The company said that low- or no-cost domain registration and minimal domain oversight appear to drive at least some of the higher levels of risk found at some top-level domains. It suggested that one reason the .biz domain is preferred by spammers is because .biz domains are available for immediate use, rather than after a typical 24-hour waiting period, which facilitates beating anti-spam services and blacklists.

“For administrators of top-level domains, this study should serve as a wake-up call. Clearly, some countries are getting it right and the more risky top-level domains now have the role models they need to improve,” commented Mark Maxwell, senior product manager, McAfee Consumer and Small Business.

The SiteAdvisor tool is available for free download at www.mcafee.com.

David Curtin, chief executive of the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), welcomed the results. “The .ie domain name is governed by a managed registry model, which means that applicants for a domain name must authenticate their claim to a domain name,” he said.

“The benefits of this are virtually no cyber crimes, identity theft or credit card fraud, less incidences of spam and virtually no cyber-squatting. With a .ie website you know who you are doing business with.”

By Niall Byrne

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