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Friday, October 19, 2007

Search Engine Safety

An Interesting Report from McAfee SiteAdvisor.....


In this study, we compare the safety of leading search engines, using McAfee SiteAdvisor’s automated Web site ratings. We find that AOL returns the safest search results, while Yahoo! returns the greatest percentage of risky results. Since May 2006, search engine results have become safer, primarily due to improved safety of sponsored results on Google, AOL, and Ask. Despite this improvement, dangerous sites are found in search results of all of the top five search engines, and sponsored results continue to be significantly less safe than search engines’ organic results.

Interesting Findings

  • Overall, 4.0% of search results link to risky Web sites, which marks an improvement from 5.0% in May 2006. Dangerous sites are found in search results of all 5 of the top US search engines (representing 93% of all search engine use).

  • The improvement in search engine safety is primarily due to safer sponsored results. The percentage of risky sites dropped from 8.5% in May 2006 to 6.9% in May 2007. However, sponsored results still contain 2.4 times as many risky sites as organic results.

  • AOL returns the safest results: 2.9 % of results rated red1 or yellow2 by McAfee SiteAdvisor. At 5.4%, Yahoo! returns the most results rated red or yellow.

  • Google, AOL, and Ask have become safer since May 2006, with Ask exhibiting the greatest improvement. The safety of search results on Yahoo! and MSN has declined.
1. “Red” rated sites failed McAfee SiteAdvisor’s safety tests. Examples are sites that distribute adware, send a high volume of spam, or make unauthorized changes to a user’s computer.
2. “Yellow” rated sites engage in practices that warrant important advisory information based on McAfee SiteAdvisor’s safety tests. Examples are sites which send a high volume of “non-spammy” e-mail, display many pop-up ads, or prompt a user to change browser settings.

Category Analysis
Keywords related to music and technology continue to be among the most dangerous search terms. Comparing the safety of Google Zeitgeist categories of search terms, the category “Digital Music” (which includes search terms “free music downloads”, “bittorrent”, and “itunes”) returns the highest percentage of risky sites at 19.1%. The category “To Do Online” (which includes online activity keywords such as “chat” and “wallpaper”) returns results which are 17.5% risky.

Top Ten Most Dangerous Google Zeitgeist Categories:

Google Zeitgeist Category
% Red/Yellow Results

1. Digital Music

2. Tech Toys

3. To Do Online

4. Technology Queries

5. Christmas Craze

6. Singers

7. Popular Male Singers

8. Top Music Queries

9. Popular Software

10. Popular Brunettes

At the individual keyword level, file sharing programs, including “bearshare” (45.9% risky search results), “limewire” (37.1%), “kazaa” (34.9%), and “winmx” (32.0%) are among the most dangerous search terms. File sharing downloads are often bundled with adware and unwanted toolbars. Desktop downloads such as “screensavers” (42.0%) and “wallpapers” (31.1%) also topped the list of most dangerous keywords.

Top Ten Most Dangerous Keywords*:

% Red/Yellow Results
1. bearshare
2. screensavers
3. limewire
4. kazaa
5. lime wire
6. winmx
7. wallpapers
8. hentai
9. halloween wallpaper
10. ringtones

*This table excludes searches for sites’ domain names.

Searching for Adult Search Terms
Adult search terms are more than twice as dangerous as non-adult search terms, and searching for adult terms has become a riskier activity since our analysis in December 2006. The percentage of risky search sites found in adult keyword search results increased from 8.0% in December 2006 to 9.4% now. Higher percentages of risky search results for adult terms are found on Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask, while AOL now returns a lower percentage of risky results for adult terms. The increased danger of adult search terms is primarily due to an increased percentage of risky sites within sponsored results for adult terms, which rose from 13.3% in December 2006 to 22.9% now.
In our tests, which maintain the default content filtering settings on each search engine, the riskiness of sponsored search results for adult terms varies greatly depending on the search engine. Searching for adult search terms, users are eight times more likely to encounter a risky sponsored site searching for adult terms on Yahoo! than on Ask. On Yahoo! sponsored results for adult terms are 29.3% risky compared to 3.7% on Ask.

So there you have it... next time when you search for something, keep these stats in mind..

for full report ---> click here


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