NordVPN reveals the most dangerous sites for users' privacy and security

Security alert showing on a computer monitor
(Image credit: pixabay | Elchinator)

Browsing the web can be a quite dangerous affair when doing your everyday browsing, but even more so when you access certain types of sites.

It should be no surprise that porn, streaming and video hosting websites have been found to top the list of the services posing the most risks to users' privacy and security. 

Such threats spanned from malware attacks to invasive ads and heavy web tracking.

That's the exclusive data gathered by one of the best VPN services around, NordVPN. Thanks to its Threat Protection tool, the VPN provider managed to block over 344 million web trackers, 341 million intrusive ads, and 506,000 malware infections in December 2022 alone.

Table showing NordVPN Threat Protection data of blocked domains

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

Malware, intrusive ads and web trackers: today's biggest cyber threats

"The online world is challenging people in every single move they make," said NordVPN cybersecurity advisor Adrianus Warmenhoven.

"Want to read an article? Dozens of ads and pop-ups are ready to immediately cover your screen. Another privacy threat – malware – is lurking for you on websites and in files you are about to download. Websites you browse are also full of third-party trackers that analyze your browsing history to find out what you do online. It depends on you to stop it."

Researchers at NordVPN wanted to understand how these cyber threats are actually reaching users. For this, they analyzed aggregated data collected via their Threat Protection system. And, while this didn't include any identifiable information about users, it helped them to depict the scenario that everyone faces online on a day-to-day basis.

Among all these threats, malware is perhaps the most worrying. That's because such malicious software can easily infiltrate a device to damage and/or compromise tons of users' sensitive data.  

Adult content sites are the ones containing the most significant amount of malware – like viruses, ransomware, spyware and more. Over 60,000 domains were blocked during the coverage period. Cloud storage and entertainment platforms follow suit, with roughly 70,000 infected platforms found between the two categories.

Intrusive ads describe all the pop-ups and other ads pages that open up without being requested. These aren't just annoying people's online experience, but they are also great at collecting information about users without their consent.

As expected, those most engaged in such a practice are free streaming platforms with more than 55 minion the domains affected. Adult content and online shopping sites appear to be right behind.

These results show how important it is turning on a reliable ad-blocker every time you browse the web, especially when you access certain types of sites. 

"Ad blockers are essential for both security - because they block ads that can infect people’s devices - and privacy because annoying ads rely on collecting data from web activity and violating people’s privacy," explains Warmenhoven. "Also, if a website is loading slower than usual, you can blame intrusive ads. Free apps filled with unwanted ads could also drain your device’s battery faster.” 

Web trackers are another huge cyber threat, as they are responsible for undermining users' anonymity online. For more details on what they are and how to protect for them, head to our dedicated explainer.

Video hosting services resulted to be the sites most packed with web trackers. Over two billion were the domains blocked by NordVPN Threat protection tool. Cloud storage, web email and information technology sites were also high in tracking. 

According to Nord, Hong Kong and Singapore are the world countries with the most web trackers, counting an average of 45 and 33 trackers per website respectively. Other nations high in tracking include the US, Australia, the UK, Spain and France.

For more insights, check NordVPN's full report here (opens in new tab).  

How NordVPN Threat Protection can help

NordVPN Threat Protection is a system aiming to shield users from the aforementioned online dangers. It does so by scanning all the files you're downloading, while blocking all the sites containing malware and dangerous ads before you can open them. 

Threat Protection comes as a feature on all the NordVPN apps. This means that no additional fee is required to enjoy a safer online experience. All you need to do is simply following these steps:

  1. Open the latest version of the NordVPN app on your chosen device
  2. Click the shield icon you find at the left of your screen
  3. Turn on the Threat Protection toggle
Chiara Castro
Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist, with a special eye for latest trends and issues in cybersecurity. She is a Staff Writer at Future with a focus on VPNs. She mainly writes news and features about data privacy, online censorship and digital rights for TechRadar, Tom's Guide and T3. With a passion for digital storytelling in all its forms, she also loves photography, video making and podcasting. Originally from Milan in Italy, she has been based in Bristol, UK, since 2018.