Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - Almanac Vol. 54, No. 14
Is it Safe to Visit This Website?
Google reported in May, 2007, that ten percent of websites are infected with malicious software that could result in a user’s personal information being stolen. Sometimes, simply visiting an infected site, without even clicking links, will compromise your computer. How can you tell a safe site from an unsafe site?
For starters, avoid sites that offer celebrity photos, screensaver wallpaper, adult photos or movies, or free or pirated computer games, movies, or music. A 2005 study by researchers at the University of Washington found that between 7% and 20% of such sites will infect visitors’ computers with harmful malicious software.
Don’t click on website ads. Antivirus software vendor McAfee reports that in 2007, 6.9% of sponsored links on the web point to malicious software. Most large website operators sub-syndicate their advertising space to ad agencies who in turn syndicate the space to still other agencies. So website operators often have little or no control over whether malicious software finds its way into ads that they host. In the past two years Google, MySpace, and, more recently, websites of The Economist, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball hosted ads harboring malicious software.
Next week: Facebook, MySpace and YouTube Raise New Computer Security Risks
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For additional information about Penn’s Office of Audit, Compliance and Privacy visit www.upenn.edu/audit.