Religious websites most prone to hackers

Online religion may be good for your soul but dangerous for your computer, according to a new report.

 By Bob Allen

Online religion may be good for your soul but dangerous for your computer, according to a new report.

report by Symantec, a company that sells computer-security software, rates websites devoted to religion or other ideologies the ones most targeted by malicious hackers.

Infected religious websites averaged 115 threats, most commonly fake anti-virus software, said Symantec. That was three times the rate of hosting and personal hosted websites and four-and-one-half times that of pornographic sites. 

The safest places for web surfing are sites about sports (average 13 threats per infected site), automotive (11) and shopping (9).

Symantec says it blocked over 5.5 billion malware attacks in 2011, an 81 percent increase over 2010. An average of 82 targeted attacks takes place each day, and you are more likely to be infected by malware placed on a legitimate website than one created by a hacker, the report says.

Mobile phones are becoming increasingly susceptible to malware attacks, with smart phone sales projected to reach 645 million in 2012. The report said 232 million identities were stolen in 2011. The most frequent cause of data breaches was not online but the theft or loss of a computer.

Macs are not immune from attack, and spammers are starting to use Quick Response, or QR, codes to trick users into installing Trojans -– benign programs that also conceal another malicious program -- onto their Android phones.

The report advises computer users to use up-to-date security programs and become educated about hacker tricks like getting them to believe their computer is infected and can be fixed with an automatic download or offering “free” or “pirated” versions of computer programs.

Symantec recommends passwords that are a mix of letters and numbers and to change them often. Never open or executive an e-mail attachment unless you expect it or trust the sender, and be cautious when clicking on links in e-mails or on social media.

In addition to technology solutions, the report recommends guarding personal data by never disclosing any confidential information without confirming the request is legitimate and monitoring bank and credit-card accounts for irregular activity.