McAfee study reveals dangers of search engine use
McAfee, among the leading Internet security companies, releases its latest study — the second installment to the State of Search Engine Safety which reveals that search engine use is, ultimately, still risky.
While there is about 1% decline to the dangers of using search engines, web searchers are still predominantly exposed to various threats brought about by sites that are associated with spams, viruses and trojans, and unsecured downloads. Interestingly, risky sites that are referred to by paid listings are 2.4 times as many as those referred by organic search, with categories related to music and technology as being the most dangerous search key terms.
Among the five major search engines, AOL proves to be the safest with only 2.9% of its search results tagged as risky. This is closely followed by Google at 3.4% and Ask.com at 3.5%. Apparently, Yahoo search is riskiest, having about 5.4% of its search results fail the test.
“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,” Tim Dowling, VP of Consumer Growth Initiatives with McAfee SiteAdvisor, said in the report. “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.”
The study is based on statistical data gathered by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, a software that summarizes safety results into an easy-to-read graphical data to keep Web users safe from viruses and online scams while they search, browse, and transact online.
By compiling and analyzing a list of about 2,300 popular search terms from across various engines and other industry sources (such as Wordtracker and Hitwise), McAfee was able to come up with the data needed to fulfill the study.
Findings such as this, however, should not be a threat to web searchers, but a reason for search engine companies to improve their existing systems. As search engines continuously tweak their algorithms to provide the most relevant results, and improve their advertising platforms to increase market share, search engine use is likely to improve over time.