Presenting a rather unseen side to cyber crime, Cisco's annual security report states that users are more likely to become victims of cyber crime through search engines, online ads and social networking websites than through pornographic or gambling sites. It asserts that websites users think are secure, are in fact not. According to the report, attackers today target the more popular online platforms that cater to larger audiences.

As per figures presented in the report, 91 percent of monitored hits to web pages were divided between search engines (36 percent), online video sites (22 percent), advertising networks (13 percent) or social networks (20 percent). 

“Common belief holds that one increases their individual risk to security threats when they seek out illicit content like counterfeit software, online deals, hacking sites or even view pornography. Viewing online advertisements is 182 times more likely to deliver malicious content than pornographic sites. Similarly, online shopping sites are 21 times as likely, and search engines 27 times more likely, to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site, Cisco Vice President (Borderless Networks), India and SAARC, Mahesh Gupta said. 

Defaulting claims of cyber espionage

Cyber crime fears higher on social media, search engines (Image credit: Getty Images)

The report also reveals that in 2012, India continued to be the spam capital of the world, and the US came a close second in sending out unsolicited emails to Internet users. While the overall volume of spam generated globally came down 18 percent from 2011 to 2012, India retained its position as the top source of spam, generating 12.3 per cent of the world's spam, Cisco said. 

The US moved up from the sixth spot in 2011 to second in 2012, while the other top five spam-originating countries were Korea (4.6 percent), China (4.19 percent) and Vietnam (4 percent).

Interestingly, just three percent of total spam mails had attachments, as compared to 25 percent of valid email—breaking the perception that spam mails have attachments that could lead to users downloading spurious content. 

Gupta said, “Spammers are now designing their campaigns to convince users to click on links to visit websites where they can purchase products or services (often dubious). Once the users do that, their personal information is collected, often without their knowledge, or they are compromised in some other way,” A majority of spam comes from groups who seek to sell branded goods, anything from luxury watches to pharmaceuticals that are, in most cases, fake, he added. 

The report went on to add that the top languages for spam messages in 2012 were English, followed by Russian, Catalan, Japanese, and Danish.

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