BEIJING: More than 500m people in China now use the internet, with considerable room for further growth remaining, a new report has shown.

According to official data provided by the China Internet Network Information Center, the online population in the country currently stands at 505m users.

This marks an increase from the 485m netizens recorded in June 2011, and a lift on the total of 457m active at the end of 2010.

However, the overall penetration rate has still reached just 37.7%, meaning almost two-thirds of Chinese consumers are yet to join the connected community.

More specifically, 300m people have signed up to microblogging services, or Weibo, measured against the audience of 195m logged in June 2011, and only 53m at the close of 2010.

Sina, Netease and Sohu are among the companies battling it out in this sector, which has come under heavy governmental scrutiny due to concerns about the rapid spread of information.

Recent regulations issued by the authorities gave members of these platforms three months to ensure user profiles utilise an individual's real name, with legal action facing anyone failing to comply.

The additional trends outlined by the China Internet Network Information Center included the fact 217m netizens were attacked by malware, like viruses, in the first half of 2011.

A further 121m people had online accounts hacked or passwords stolen during the same period, the organisation's figures revealed.

Data sourced from Reuters; additional content by Warc staff