Study Reveals Riskiest Web Domains To Surf, Search

The world’s most heavily trafficked web domain, .COM, is now the riskiest, according to McAfee’s fourth annual Mapping the Mal Web report released recently. Fifty-six percent of all risky sites end in .COM.

“What online surfers may not know is that simply viewing a page can return much more than they bargained for” McAfee analyzed more than 27 million websites to uncover which domains are the most dangerous. While .COM is the riskiest top-level domain, the riskiest country domain is Vietnam (.VN). Japan’s .JP ranks as the safest country domain for the second year in a row. The report also found that 6.2 percent of the 27 million websites analyzed pose a security risk – up from 5.8 percent last year.

“This report underscores how quickly cybercriminals change tactics to lure in victims and avoid being caught,” said Paula Greve, director of web security research for McAfee Labs. “Last year Vietnam’s .VN was a relatively safe domain, and this year it jumped to the third most dangerous domain. Cybercriminals target regions where registering sites is cheap and convenient and pose the least risk of being caught. A domain that’s safe one year can be dangerous the next.”

A top-level domain, also known as a “TLD,” is the letter code at the end of a website that indicates where the site is registered. Most people do not pay attention to the TLD suffix when they search, and many click on the first result that looks interesting. This leaves the surfer vulnerable to criminals who optimize sites for search engines and take advantages of typos such as .CM (Cameroon) instead of .COM.

Country Domain Comparisons

The report reveals drastic changes in country domain rankings with .VN (Vietnam) skyrocketing to third place, up from 39th in 2009. In fact, 58 percent of the country’s registered sites are ranked as risky. By contrast, .SG (Singapore) became safer this year, dropping to the 81st most risky domain from 10th in last year’s report. Singapore’s registration process now requires appropriate documentation when seeking to register any .SG site, which helped to improve its safety levels, according to the Singapore Network Information Center. Click here to see an interactive map of the most dangerous domains.

Key Findings from the 2010 Mapping the Mal Web Report

  • Cybercriminals are opportunistic: Domain registrars set the guidelines for anyone who wants to register a site. As rules evolve each year, cybercriminals sniff out loopholes and create new ways to set up dangerous sites quickly.
  • A clean domain deters cybercriminals: Cybercriminals move away from domains that have tougher restrictions. This year, Singapore (.SG) showed significant improvement.
  • Safest domains: .TRAVEL and .EDU are the safest top-level domains with less than .05 percent of sites infected, which is one in 2,000 sites.

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