McAfee On Search Engine Safety

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The safety risk to search engine users declined by about one percentage point according to a study from McAfee, "The State of Search Engine Safety." Sites that offer adware, spyware, viruses and exploits are considered risky.

Overall, McAfee estimates that U.S. user’s conduct 276 million searches each month that lead to Web sites that could put users security at risk.

The study found that 4 percent of all search results link to risky Web sites. AOL returned the safest results with just 2.9 percent considered risky, down from 5.3 percent in May 2006.

Yahoo returned the riskiest results with 5.4 percent flagged as a threat. Sponsored results contain 2.4 times as many risky sites as organic sites, while 6.9 percent of all sponsored results had some degree of risk. This was an improvement from 8.5 percent last year, largely due to Google’s improvements in paid search safety.

Categories related to music and technology are still the most dangerous search terms. "Digital music" returns the highest percentage of risky sites at 19.1 percent followed by "tech toys" and common keywords like "chat" and "wallpaper."

File sharing programs were also among risky keywords. Dangerous file sharing searches include "Bearshare" (45.9 percent risky results), "limewire" (37.1 percent) and "kazaa" (34.9 percent).

"We’re encouraged to see some improvement in search engine safety this year. But with four out of five Web site visits starting with a search engine query, consumers are still exposed to hundreds of millions of risky searches per month," said Tim Dowling, vice president, Consumer Growth Initiatives, McAfee SiteAdvisor.

"In fact, an active search engine user, one that performs more than 10 searches per day, is likely to visit a dangerous site at least once a day."

McAfee On Search Engine Safety
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