Santa Clara, California – (The Hosting News) – June 7, 2007 – McAfee Inc. has updated its search engine safety study,
one year after releasing its inaugural study of the safety of search engines, which reports that while the overall safety risk to search engine users declined by about 1 percentage point, sponsored results, or those paid for by advertisers, remain significantly more risky than non-sponsored results.
In addition, the new update to ”The State of Search Engine Safety,” found that overall, United States consumers make approximately 276 million monthly searches that lead to web sites that could compromise online safety. 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.
Tim Dowling, Vice President, Consumer Growth Initiatives at McAfee SiteAdvisor remarked, ”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,” said “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.”
Among the study’s key findings: — 4.0 percent of all search results link to risky Web sites — AOL returns the safest results with 2.9 percent rated red or yellow, down from 5.3 percent in May 2006. Yahoo returned the most red or yellow results, 5.4 percent. — Sponsored results contain 2.4 times as many risky sites as organic sites; in fact, 6.9 percent of all sponsored results are rated red or yellow. This represents an improvement from 8.5 percent last year, primarily due to Google’s improvements in paid search safety. (Google’s sponsored listings are featured on its own search engine, and also partially power ads on AOL and Ask.) — Categories related to music and technology continue to be among the most dangerous search terms. ”Digital music” returns the highest percentage of risky sites at 19.1 percent, followed by ”tech toys” and popular keywords like ”chat” and ”wallpaper.” — File sharing programs were also prominent among top risky keywords. Dangerous file sharing searches include ”Bearshare” (45.9 percent risky results), ”limewire” (37.1 percent), ”kazaa” (34.9 percent) and ”winmix” (32 percent). — Scam sites remain prevalent, representing 3.2 percent of all sponsored listings. Typical scams include download sites selling free software, ringtone sites with misleading billing practices, and work-at-home sites with deceptive terms. — Among adult keyword search results, risky sites increased by 17.5 percent since December 2006, and risky sites now number 9.4 percent of overall adult search results. Driving this increase was a dramatic 72.2 percent increase in the percentage of risky adult sites within sponsored results.
Other detailed information contained in the report includes a comprehensive analysis of organic and sponsored results by search engine, an analysis of Google Zeitgeist keyword groups citing the safest and riskiest keyword categories, and an analysis of safety by individual keyword.
McAfee SiteAdvisor has been awarded five stars by CNET’s Download.com, named to Time Magazine’s 50 Coolest Web Sites list, awarded Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” honor, named PC World Magazine’s Top 20 Products of the Year, and acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Commerce with its ”Recognition of Excellence in Innovation” award.
McAfee Inc. dedicated security technology company, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, endeavors to deliver proactive and proven solutions and services that secure systems and networks around the world. With its unmatched security expertise and commitment to innovation, McAfee empowers home users, businesses, the public sector, and service providers with the ability to block attacks, prevent disruptions, and continuously track and improve their security.
To learn more about McAfee, please visit: www.mcafee.com.
For more information about the report, please visit: www.siteadvisor.com/studies/search_safety_may2007.