The Hong Kong domain (.hk) is the riskiest Internet destination for Web surfers, according to a McAfee report released Wednesday.
Overall, the security firm looked at 265 domains for a variety of unwanted behaviors, and ranked the 74 most heavily trafficked top-level domains. The list includes both country domains, such as .hk, and generic domains, such as .com.
McAfee gave the most dangerous Web sites within each domain red ratings; it gave yellow ratings to sites where caution should be taken.
Times Are Changing
Several years ago, the major security threat facing Internet users came in the form of e-mail attachments. That’s not so anymore, says Shane Keats, research analyst for McAfee.
McAfee tested Web sites for browser exploits, phishing and excessive pop-ups. Browser exploits, also known as “drive-by downloads,” enable the installation of viruses, keystroke loggers, or spyware on computers without the owners’ consent or knowledge.
In McAfee’s first report on malicious Web sites across the world, released last year, Tokelau (.tk) ranked No. 1 with 10.1 percent of its Web sites receiving red or yellow ratings. At that time, Hong Kong didn’t even rank among the top 25 most dangerous domains. This year, the firm rated 19.2 percent of all .hk sites tested either red or yellow.
“Things on the Web move incredibly fast, and this is true of security issues,” Keats told TechNewsWorld. “What might have been risky last year may be safe this year, and vice versa.”
Regulating Domain Names
Hong Kong Domain Name Registration, or HKDNR, recently made some policy changes that inadvertently encouraged scammers.
Among those changes:
- offering domain registration discounts;
- promoting .hk domains in overseas markets; and
- streamlining the registration process.
Since the study’s completion, however, HKDNR has revamped its policies once again, and Keats said the .hk domain would likely become safer over the next year.
“In general, domains that monitor who gets domains tend to be safer,” he pointed out. “For example, Japan (.jp) and Australia (.au) domains require businesses to be incorporated before they are given a domain name.”
Such regulations tend to discourage fly-by-night scam artists who don’t have legitimate papers, added Keats.
The McAfee report is basically meant to be a guidebook for the Web, he said, not unlike a travel guide.
“The Web is a great resource that should be used, but it should be used with caution,” Keats emphasized. “Just as there are dangerous neighborhoods to stay away from when traveling, there are dangerous Web sites that people should stay away from when surfing.”