Consider this statistic: the pornography industry has revenues larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined. That’s right, the combined revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink. You’re not really surprised, are you?
Even if you are an infrequent user of the Internet, it is probable that you have been exposed to unwanted porn while surfing the web.
Now, I hold no moral, religious, or political views on the availability of pornography on the Internet; except of course that which is clearly illegal or morally reprehensible, such as child pornography.
My main concern with pornographic Websites is focused instead on the primary/secondary use that many of these sites are designed for – as a vehicle for the distribution of potentially harmful malware applications that can be surreptitiously dropped onto unwitting visitors computers.
WOT, (Web of Trust) has just released a study of 19 million sites covered by the website reputation database which was conducted from March to May 2008 and focused on dangerous sites – such sites amount to 1 in 20 Internet sites. The survey employed sophisticated algorithms to ensure the filtering of non-adult content, and to enhance the accuracy of the finale results.
For those that are unfamiliar with WOT; it is a free Internet Browser resource (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET, tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping users avoid unsafe web sites.
According to the key findings of the study, Websites offering adult content are the single most significant security threat exposure for Internet users, both home users’ and corporate users’, with 31% of dangerous websites falling into the category of adult sites.
Experienced computer users are generally aware that pornographic web sites are notorious for spyware, viruses, browser exploits and phishing attacks on insufficiently protected computers.
The credibility of this view is emphasized by Esa Suurio, CEO of Against Intuition Inc., the company that supports Web of Trust, who concludes from the survey that “Visiting the red light district of the Internet makes the user vulnerable to spyware, viruses and leakage of confidential information which can cause significant damage.”
Esa goes on to say “Given the size of the problem there has been surprisingly little debate on the topic. Perhaps the suffering parties, individuals and companies, hesitate to express their complaints in public.” No doubt this last can be explained by the old Puritan view, still held by many, that condemns the viewing of pornographic material.
Recently I came across statistics that indicate 91% of corporate computer users’ routinely break their company’s Internet usage policies. WOT’s survey makes it clear that such lack of responsible usage, particularly where inappropriate sites are accessed, can “put their company at risk by introducing malware, viruses and spyware which can cause a security breach in the organization. The potential for damage is enormous, from inside and outside their firewalls, considering that confidential data can be stolen by keyloggers and tracking cookies, a common form of malware used by porn sites”.
As a result of this survey WOT’s has enhanced its database with double the coverage of pornographic sites than it had previously. Parents who are concerned for the safety of their children on the Internet will be glad to know that WOT has information on nearly 1 million sites that are rated poorly for child safety.
4.2 million pornographic websites
420 million pages of adult content
11 new porn sites are created each hour
34% of Internet users received unwanted exposure to porn
The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11
Malware and phishing attacks cost computer users $18 million per year
source: Bill Mullins' Weblog