A survey of computer users has found that one in three believe that all websites pose a security threat.
Asked ‘where do you suspect is the greatest danger of malware infection on the internet', 34 per cent said that when it comes to security, all websites are equally dangerous.
Websites that offer illegal software were deemed to be dangerous to 27 per cent, 22 per cent believed that visitors to adult sites are exposed to dangers, while 13 per cent saw online gambling sites as the most treacherous. Only four per cent believed that big portals are particularly vulnerable due to their popularity.
Sorin Mustaca, data security expert at Avira, who conducted the survey, said: “On one hand, it's encouraging to see that over 33 per cent of our user base has learned that security threats can come from any website, but it's also a statement on our society at large when one out of every three people can't trust any of the websites they visit.”
Carl Leonard, senior threat research manager at Websense, believed that the results underline the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the risks when browsing the internet.
He said: “While 34 per cent is a positive increase in awareness, it clearly shows that two-thirds of users still lack awareness of online security threats. Businesses are also suffering from the same problem and many do not adequately protect themselves online.
“There have been a string of high profile internet security breaches in the media recently. Two prime examples are the Zeus Trojan, which stole money from UK bank accounts and also Zurich Insurance, which picked up a record £2.27 million fine for data loss.
“Threats can come from anywhere: cyber criminals are known to target Web 2.0 websites, the most popular 100 websites, legitimate business websites and brand new sites; and they specifically look for places to host zero-day attacks. Today's sophisticated threats are increasingly blended attacks which hit all these channels and if a business has not got the right protection it can be hugely damaging."
Christopher Boyd, senior threat researcher at GFI Labs, said: “Personally I'd be more worried by browser games and social networking applications than pornographic websites - adult entertainment websites realised a long time ago that they won't maximise their profits while peddling infections and malicious code hijacks.
“In contrast, so many applications are untested and unverified by the platforms they operate on that spam, malicious links and compromised profiles are increasingly the order of the day. Warez sites can be lethal, as the code you're downloading could contain absolutely anything.”
Matthew Bruun, security expert at VeriSign, said: “It's great to see that consumers are thinking about their online security, but as long as users are prudent and cautious when they are operating online there is no need to distrust every website. In order to get the best from the web, consumers need to know what to look for so that they can make the best judgement on whether or not to give a site their custom. Always look for visible security cues such as trust marks, or the green address bar, to guarantee that the website is authentic and online transactions are being secured.
“It's these security factors, and not the type of website, that indicate to consumers which sites are safe to deal with. Conversely, if a site looks poorly built, has a strange URL address and contains lots of spelling or typographical errors, the user is right to be nervous.”