How safe are the links that your favorite search engine fetches? A study conducted by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor service can help you find the answer. Releasing an update to its report on “Safety of search engines,” the Santa Clara, California-based security company stated that the overall safety risk to search engine users has come down (though marginally).

Excerpt from a detailed report on

“McAfee studied the five major United States search engines — Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Ask — which account for 93 percent of all search engine use. To conduct the study, McAfee analyzed the first 50 search results returned by each search engine for 2,300 popular keywords. The keywords were selected from lists like Google Zeitgeist and Yahoo! Buzz, among other industry sources. Each result was compared to McAfee SiteAdvisor’s Web safety database of 8.2 million site safety ratings. Red ratings are assigned to sites found to offer adware, spyware, viruses, exploits, spammy e-mail, excessive pop-ups or strong affiliations with other red sites. Yellow ratings are given to sites which merit some caution before use. The data for the study was analyzed in May 2007. The study was co-authored by Ben Edelman, noted spyware researcher and an advisor to McAfee SiteAdvisor.”

Major spotlights include:

  • About 4 percent of search results from any engine lead to sites deemed risky, that’s down from 5 percent a year ago
  • Sponsored results significantly more risky than non-sponsored results
  • Dangerous search terms – “screensavers,” “Digital music,” “tech toys,” “chat,” and “wallpaper.” And file sharing lingo like “Bearshare,” “limewire,” “kazaa,” and “winmix.”
  • Scam sites constitute 3.2 percent of all sponsored listings

The full report is available at McAfee’s SiteAdvisor.


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