Cisco: There's no place safe for Web surfers

Online shopping sites and search engines more likely to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site

Web surfers don't have to indulge in risky behavior to paint a bull's eye on their browser for byte bandits.

That's one of the findings in the annual security report released this week by Cisco.

Despite popular assumptions that security risks grow as a person's online activity becomes shadier, the report said, "the highest concentration of online security threats do not target pornography, pharmaceutical or gambling sites as much as they do legitimate destinations visited by mass audiences, such as major search engines, retail sites and social media outlets."

For example, online shopping sites are 21 times as likely to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site. The likelihood is even higher for search engines -- they're 27 times as likely to deliver malware than a bogus software site.

[Also see: Windows 8 security focuses on early malware detection]

Advertisements, ubiquitous on the Web, are 182 as times likely to deliver malicious content than smut sites, the report added. In fact, malicious advertising, or malvertising, played a more significant role in Web malware in 2012 than in 2011, Cisco said.

"[W]eb malware encounters most frequently occur via normal browsing of legitimate websites that may have been compromised or are unwittingly serving malicious advertising," the report said. "Malicious advertising can impact any website, regardless of the site's origin."

What makes malvertising particularly pernicious is that it can push malware to the visitor of a web page without any interaction with the ad itself.

Malvertising typically does that by exploiting known browser vulnerabilities. "If a user visits a site with malicious advertising on it, it can force malware through the recent Java vulnerability to the desktop without the user knowing," George Tubin, a senior security strategist, with Trusteer, a Boston-based endpoint security company, said in an interview. Oracle recently patched zero-day flaws in Java.

Because malvertising usually targets known vulnerabilities, an enterprise can do much to protect its users by ensuring their software is up-to-date, said Chris Larsen, a senior malware researcher with security company Blue Coat, of Sunnyvale, Calif. Key software programs that should be kept current are the operating system, the browser, Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

"If those are patched against known attacks, most of the time malvertising will not get you," Larsen said.

In addition to keeping programs updated, security on the desktop and at the Internet connection point is important, he said. Larsen recommended an antivirus program that recognizes exploit activity and can identify the signatures of bad apps, along with a malware-aware Web filter at an organization's gateway.

The Cisco report noted that one of the biggest challenges to any organization is dealing with an "any-to-any" world. "The crux of the any-to-any issue is this: We're quickly reaching the point where it is increasingly less likely that a user is going to access a business through an enterprise network," Chris Young, senior vice president of the security and government group at Cisco, said in the report.

While that development isn't unexpected, companies may remain unprepared for it from a security perspective. The issue has significant consequences for security professionals, especially in light of the Bring-Your-Own-Device revolution. "With the rapid adoption of BYOD," the report said, "the reality of multiple devices per user and growth of cloud-based services, the era of managing security capabilities on each endpoint is over."

Read more about security awareness in CSOonline's Security Awareness section.

2015 State of The IT Channel Survey : IT'S TIME!!! Fill in this year's State of the IT Channel Survey and be in the running to win great prizes. CLICK HERE

Join the ARN newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Cisco SystemssecuritymalvertisingSecurity Leadership | Security AwarenessciscoSecurity Leadershipmalware

More about Adobe SystemsBlue Coat SystemsCiscoOracleTrusteerTrusteerTrusteer

ARN Directory | Distributors relevant to this article

ARN Directory | Vendors relevant to this article

Show Comments
 

Latest News

02:15PM
Aussie appetite for fast broadband proves to be insatiable
02:07PM
Dicker Data partners NEXTDC to provide "affordable" Cloud solutions
01:27PM
There should be a ‘when, not if’ approach to security issues in the channel: Log...
01:22PM
Huawei's Australian enterprise business posts triple digit revenue growth
More News
14 Apr
Dell Solutions Tour Melbourne
15 Apr
LIVE WEBCAST Websense 2015 Threat Report: 8 High-Risk Lessons
21 Apr
APJ Progress Spark Conference
22 Apr
2015 Innotribe Startup Challenge
View all events