The Hong Kong (.hk) domain jumped 28 places in McAfee's second annual tally of the most dangerous place to surf and search on the web.
The report, called "Mapping the Mal Web Revisited," from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network security vendor, found that Hong Kong took over the dubious top spot from Tokelau, a tiny island in the South Pacific. The report revealed that 19.2 percent of all websites ending in the ".hk" domain pose a security threat to web users.
But, that's not saying that Hong Kong residents and businesses are fraudsters, said Shane Keats, research analyst at McAfee, and the author of the report, in a conversation with SCMagazineUS.com Wednesday.
“McAfee is not saying with this report that the web is a dangerous place," he said. "But like any tool, you must use it wisely. The study can be thought of as a guide to what's safe and what's risky."
In contrast to Hong Kong, the report named Finland (.fi) as the safest online destination with 0.05 percent of websites posing a security threat to web users, followed by Japan (.jp). The report said that Ireland (.is) was last year's winner of the safest domain.
When asked why one locale might be more inundated with malicious activity than another, Keats responded that the miscreants behind this activity are looking at three things: ease of registration, least regulation and lowest cost.
“The bad guys look for locations where there's ease of registration," he said. "This means they're looking for TLD [top-level domains] that let them register thousands of URLs at a time.”
They are also are looking at domains that they can work with at arm's length, he said.
“The bad guys are as good at math as top MBAs,” said Keats. “They know that if they set up 1,000 malware sites, 999 of them will be removed quickly.”
So they are looking for opportunities where the cost of registration is minimal.
However, he added, the overall risk of web surfing stayed the same as last year.
Other key findings from McAfee's report include:
- Sites that offer downloads -- such as ringtones and screensavers that are also loaded with viruses, spyware and adware -- increased over the last year from 3.3 percent to 4.7 percent
- The Philippines (.ph) experienced a 270 percent increase in overall riskiness
- Spain (.es) experienced a 91 percent increase in overall risk
“Otherwise, they are playing Russian roulette,” Keats said.