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Religious Sites Carry More Malware Than Porn Sites, Security Firm Reports

The annual Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec also says malware threats to Android phones are up dramatically.

Religious and ideological websites can carry three times more malware threats than pornography sites, according to research from security firm Symantec. The firm’s annual Internet Security Threat Report also found that threats to mobile devices continue to grow, almost exclusively for Google’s Android mobile OS.

nternet security reports from companies that also sell anti-virus solutions should be taken with a pinch of salt, given the potential of conflict of interest, but Symantec’s authoritative findings are nevertheless interesting.

Symantec found that the average number of security threats on religious sites was around 115, while adult sites only carried around 25 threats per site--a particularly notable discrepancy considering that there are vastly more pornographic sites than religious ones. Also, only 2.4 percent of adult sites were found to be infected with malware, compared to 20 percent of blogs.

IWhy religious sites you might ask? “We hypothesize that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the Internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free--it’s not good for repeat business,” said the report.

Malware on the Increase

Symantec measured an increase of more than 81 percent in malware in 2011 over 2010, while the number of malware variants increased by 41 percent. On the flip side, spam volumes have decreased from 88.5 percent of all email in 2010 to 75.1 percent in 2011--thanks to law enforcement action which shut down the Rustock worldwide botnet that was responsible for sending out large amounts of spam.

Android smartphone users should also be weary of malware, as Symantec says mobile vulnerabilities, almost exclusive to Google’s open mobile OS, increased by more than 93 percent. The report found more than half of all Android threats collect device data or track users’ activities.

A quarter of the mobile threats identified were designed to make money by sending premium SMS messages from infected phones, which could be even more lucrative than stealing your credit card details.

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