Blogs now infested with offensive content

Report reveals the dark side of DIY publishing

The Internet's blog sites have become overgrown with a variety of unpleasant content, including porn, offensive language, hate posting, and malware, a new threat analysis has suggested.

According to Scansafe's Monthly Global Threat Report for March 2007, a surprisingly high percentage of the Internet's blog sites -- up to 80 percent -- contain "offensive" content, with six percent hosting active malware.

To be added to the list of those deemed potentially offensive within a business context, a site merely had to contain a single post containing profanity, or worse.

The figures were gleaned from an analysis of real-time traffic passing through the company corporate proxying service, designed to filter out the worst content. A total of 614 sites were chosen at random from sites reckoned to have blogging as a significant activity.

"There were as many blogs with the 'F-word' as the word 'China'", said ScanSafe's Dan Nadir. Because many legitimate sites could contain offensive material, the company didn't block these unless the policy of the client specified such an action. The service was designed to filter out the worst offenders.

"Employees visiting these sites can unknowingly expose corporate networks to legal liability, viruses and loss of proprietary information."

"The content on blogs and other sites powered by user contributed content is constantly changing. As a result, web security solutions that rely on web crawling -- or periodically scouring the web for threats -- rather than actually scanning the URL each time it is requested, can leave users exposed to malware and unwanted content," he said.

The figures look sensational, but overstate the seriousness of the content on many of these blog sites. As the company admits, a single swear word doesn't in itself mean the site is a problem. What is does indicate is the extent to which the Internet has become a channel for what Nadir suggested might be a long tail of minority interests that encompass interests others would deem 'offensive". Companies needed to be aware of the issue, however.

On a more general scale, the company's services last year blocked a total of 12 million web threats out of 7 billion web requests, across 30 countries.

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John E. Dunn

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