The mainland has intensified efforts against malicious internet activity, boosting the country's online security ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, according to a report. The latest edition of security software giant Symantec's Global Internet Security Threat Report found the percentage of malicious online activity - including phishing, spam, so-called 'bot' infections and other internet attacks - to and from, and inside the mainland decreased during the second half of last year to 7 per cent from 10 per cent in the first half. 'This was a dramatic reduction and plenty of credit goes to the mainland government's determination to cut malicious internet activity before the Beijing Olympics,' said Michael Chue Hoi-kwok, Symantec managing director for Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mr Chue said getting a head-start against such activity was important because cyber-attacks are predicted to increase in the second half this year, with the Beijing Olympics in August and the United States presidential elections in November as prime targets. He said the mainland, based on its growing number of broadband subscribers, remains No2 behind the US (31 per cent) among the top 10 countries with high malicious internet activity, which means increased awareness for computer security must continue. The sharp decline in malicious internet cases on the mainland was attributed by the Symantec report to a decrease of bot-infected computers in the country from July to December last year. Bots are covertly installed programs in a computer that allow an unauthorised user to remotely control the machine. Networks of compromised computers, known as botnets, are used by hackers and criminal organisations for targeted denial-of-service attacks, mass-mail spam, phishing, harvesting of confidential information for identity theft, and distribution of spyware and adware. The mainland, which used to account for the world's largest number of botnets, dropped to No3 based on percentage of bot-infected computers by country, with 8 per cent during the second half last year from 29 per cent in the first half. The report said there was 'a significant reduction in the availability of many websites, forums and blogs in China for several months' last year. 'China is working to clean out all compromised machines as fast as possible,' said Roy Ko Wai-tak, manager of the Hong Kong government-backed Computer Emergency Response Team Co-operation Centre. 'Those numbers will be well under control as the date of the Beijing Olympics gets closer.' Mr Ko said various mainland authorities, including representatives from the Beijing Olympics organising committee, have been working closely with their counterparts in Hong Kong, which will co-host the Olympic equestrian events, to draw up needed online security initiatives. US-based Symantec's biannual security threat report also found China Netcom, the fixed-line telecommunications provider for the Beijing Olympics, as second behind Telecom Italia in the top-10 ranking of malicious activity identified by internet service provider. This unflattering metric for China Netcom showed that a large number of new broadband users on the mainland did not take steps to protect their computers from internet attacks and harmful malicious software.