The traditional method of maliciously crafted sites luring victims in with promises of rare and desirable content continues to flourish, but is now rivaled by legitimate sites compromised by cybercriminals to host their wares. Such sites are particularly dangerous because visitors feel secure on trustworthy web resources and therefore tend to let their guard down and believe what the pop-ups and inserts say.
In the first half of 2010, malvertising continued its reign of terror, with the website of Minnesota's Star Tribune newspaper and popular online game Farm Town struck by poisoned advertising feeds pushing rogue anti-virus scams on their readers and players.
Fake anti-virus and blackhat SEO malware stir up trouble
Many national embassies and consulate websites were hacked last year, often putting their visitors at risk. Among those affected were the Indian embassy in Spain, Azerbaijanian sites in Pakistan and Hungary, the Ethiopian embassy in Washington DC, and the embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in London. Most of these sites were used to serve up fake anti-virus software scams.
Meanwhile, leaked or stolen FTP login credentials allowed hackers overtake a vast number of "mom-and-pop" websites. Many of these compromised sites, like those set up with explicitly malicious intentions, attract visitors thanks to aggressive SEO techniques designed to push links to the top of search results. These attacks often take advantage of breaking news stories, popular trends and major events.
Top 10 malware-hosting countries
The US remains the main hosting ground for malicious webpages. Although China and Russia continue to provide the main competition, China's share dropped considerably from 27.7% in 2008 to 11.2% in 2009. This strong decline leveled out in the first half of 2010, with China hovering in second place with 10.75%. Russian hosting declined more steeply recently, falling from 12.8% in 2009 to 6.13% over the last six months. The remainder of malicious pages are scattered all over the world, with the major European countries dominating the rest of the top 10.