Users are more likely to fall prey to cyber crime through search engines, online ads and social networking websites than pornographic or gambling sites, according to a report by technology giant Cisco.
"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," Cisco Vice President (Borderless Networks), India and SAARC, Mahesh Gupta said.
The places users believe are secure are just the opposite -- the modern attacker compromises mainstream online destination that serve mass audiences, he added.
According to Cisco's annual security report, 91 per cent of monitored hits to web pages were split between search engines (36 per cent) like Google, online video sites (22 per cent) like Youtube, advertising networks (13 per cent) or social networks (20 per cent) like Facebook or Twitter.
"Viewing online advertisements are 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," he said.
The report also suggests that while India remained the spam capital of the world, the US has become a close second in sending out unsolicited emails to Internet users globally in 2012.
While the overall volume of spam generated globally came down 18 per cent from 2011 to 2012, India retained the top spot as a source of spam worldwide 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 per cent), China (4.19 per cent) and Vietnam (4 per cent).
Only three per cent of total spam mails had attachments, versus 25 per cent of valid email, unlike the perception that spam mails have attachments that could lead to users downloading spurious content.
"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," Gupta said.
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 top languages for spam messages in 2012 were English, followed by Russian, Catalan, Japanese, and Danish.