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Caution Against Search Results Linking To Bad Sites

Security Company McAfee's SiteAdvisor indicated in a survey released on December 11, 2006 that online searches for even the most harmless terms could be risky for the computer system. For e.g., the phrases in the 'Google Zeitgeist' group of "childhood favorites" containing "Winnie the Pooh" and "Tweety" displayed risky sites in 6.7% of the hits.

SiteAdvisor, collected new numbers of 'keyword searches' following a survey in May 2006. It found that 'search engines' like 'Google', 'Yahoo', 'MSN', 'AOL', and 'Ask.com' served 5% of the links that sent surfers to malicious sites capable of infecting computers with malware or corrupt mailboxes with spam.

Sites sponsoring ads continue to be highly risky, commonly the "Drive-by" malware sites. McAfee says that although the possibility of clicking through a malicious site came down by 12%, but consumers still go through risky sites more than 268 million times per month.

In general, the survey estimated 4.4% of search results took to risky sites, a decline by 5% in May. 8% of results from 'sponsored' or 'paid' links specifically directed to risky sites, was lower than 8.5% in May.

As commented by Chris Dixon, 'director of strategy' for SiteAdvisor, it is encouraging to find that clicking on 'search engine results' has become relatively safer. But as clicking nearly one of 12 sponsored links leads to a risky site, it means there is enough scope for improvement.

The survey also discovered that several searches, which contained the term "free", including phrases like "free credit checks", "free e-cards", "free white pages" gave 14.5% of the returns that had some malicious content. Meanwhile, search terms like "Adult" or porn-related phrases gave almost 8% of risky sites, which was twice as many for "non adult" search terms.

A weekly compilation of popular search categories, 'Google Zeitgeist' had one very dangerous category - the "tech toys". Within the top five search items in this category, including "iPod nano", and "mp3music downloads", 23% of the results led to risky sites.

SiteAdvisor's category of risky sites include those with "unsavory" e-mails, dangerous downloads, scam sites. It also includes links to other malicious sites and those containing browser exploits.

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