New report finds .info domain "most risky"

The .info domain is the internet equivalent of an unsafe neighbourhood, according to a new report.

The latest SiteAdvisor report from anti-virus company McAfee found that registering at a site or downloading a file can be significantly more risky when done at certain domains. The company said there was a 73.2 per cent chance of receiving spam after registering an email address at a random .info domain. This domain was also the most unsafe top-level domain with 7.5 per cent of sites labelled "risky".

The company tested websites on 265 top level domains and found that there were large differences in safety between different domains. The company gave "red" ratings to sites that contained adware, spyware, viruses, exploits, spam, excessive pop-ups or strong affiliations with other red-rated sites. Sites giving a green rating were the safest for internet users to visit.

It found that the most risky large country domains were Romania with 5.6 per cent of sites rated red and Russia with 4.5 per cent. McAfee said these country domains were also the most likely to host exploit or "drive-by-download" sites.

Scandinavian countries fared best with the lowest number of red sites overall. Unsurprisingly, no US government website was given a red rating and the UK's domain was found to be the 51st most risky domain.

"For administrators of top-level domains, this study should serve as a wake-up call. Clearly, some countries are getting it right. And the more risky top level domains now have the role models they need to improve," said Mark Maxwell, a senior product manager at McAfee. "For consumers, this study is a stark reminder that they need help navigating the web safely."

The research found that low or no cost domain registration and minimal domain oversight appeared to be the main reasons for some of the higher levels of risk found at some top-level domains. McAfee said one reason the .biz domain is preferred by spammers is because these domains are available for immediate use, rather than after a typical 24 hour waiting period, which is critical to spammers wanting to beat anti-spam services and blacklists.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.