The Most Dangerous Words on the Web

Jun 4, 2007 1:34pm

You run a four percent chance of picking up spyware or a computer virus if you go to site you find on a web search engine.  It’s getting better, but there’s still a lot of nasty stuff out there.  This according to the newest survey by McAfee, Inc., the maker of antivirus software. Quoting McAfee: "Today’s update shows that while the overall safety risk to search engine users declined by about 1 percentage point, sponsored results–those paid for by advertisers–remain significantly more risky than non-sponsored results. Overall, McAfee estimates United States consumers make approximately 276 million monthly searches that lead to Web sites that could compromise online safety." The survey is posted HERE.  McAfee says it surveyed the five largest search engines–Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask–which together account for 93% of the searches made on the web.  AOL was safest (2.9% of sites were rated "red" or "yellow" by McAfee); Yahoo was riskiest (5.4%), though these are not major differences. What’s most dangerous to search for?  Digital music seems to be near the top:
–"Bearshare" (45.9 percent risky results)
–"Limewire" (37.1 percent)
–"Kazaa" (34.9 percent)
–"Winmix" (32 percent). Other risky search terms: “screensavers” (42.0%) and “wallpapers” (31.1%).  Best to find your own. Scam sites are 3.2% of all sponsored listings.  Steer clear, McAfee says, of sites offering free software, ringtones with too-good-to-be-true promises, and work-at-home schemes.  Keep in mind, of course, that McAfee benefits from such a survey; they’re trying to sell software to protect you from all these looming threats.  But they do point out that 80 percent of all the websites people visit are found through search engines, and with people doing 43 searches a month on something like 240 million computers in the U.S., that’s a lot of searches.

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