So about 4 percent of online searches (or more than 276 million searches per month) link to risky Web sites. And results from searches for online porn is apparently safer than searches for music.
This according to the second annual State of Search Engine Safety published by Santa Clara-based company McAfee SiteAdvisor that makes computer-security software.
The result is better (or safer) than a year ago, but sponsored links still are less safe than search engines organic results, according to the the MIT-engineers at the McAfee-team: “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,” they write.
Here are some key findings from the study: 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 (AOL, Ask, Google, MSN and Yahoo). The percentage of risky sites dropped from 8.5% in May 2006 to 6.9% in May 2007, but sponsored results still contain 2.4 times as many risky sites as organic results.
According to McAfee SiteAdvisor risky web sites come in two types; red and yellow. Red sites distribute adware, send a high volume of spam or make unauthorized changers to a user’s computer. Yellow sites could send a high volume of “non-spammy” e-mail, display many pop-ups or promt a user to change browser.
The study was widely reported Monday. Neil J Rubenking at PC Magazine and Larry Dignan at Between the Lines focused on the good news, namely that search engines are generally safer today than a year ago. At PC World Tom Spring pointed out the top four most dangerous searches on Google, according to the study:
1. bearshare: yielding 46 percent “dangerous” links
2. limewire: yielding 37 percent “dangerous” links
3. Kazaa: yielding 35 percent “dangerous” links
4. winmx: yielding 32 percent “dangerous” links
At LATimes Joseph Menn reported on the difference in security between online searches for porn and for music: About 9% of adult sites produce spyware, adware or spam, compared with 19% of digital music sites, he wrote adding that “whatever threat online pornography might pose to society’s morals, online music might pose a bigger threat to society’s computers.”
There were also questions raised. At Washington Post’s blog Securityfix Brian Krebs wrote that he would like to see a more granular breakout of sites that earned McAfee’s red flag “because the study lumps together outright malicious sites with those that merely link to sites with questionable practices, or those that spam users who signed up with their e-mail addresses”.
On the p2pnet-blog the credibility of the McAfee’s SiteAdvisor was addressed. Apperently p2pnet has been “smeared with the Big Red X” – read more about it on the blog.
“In short, the McAfee SiteAdvisor has it wrong. Dead wrong,” the p2pnet-team writes…
To us, the study points out the important issue of security in the web 2.0 world. Along with copywright laws this is one of the huge issues that needs to be solved – or at least dealt with. In a way, creating web 2.0 is like building a new society (in the wild west). It takes both creativity and rules.
By Tina Magnergard Bjers and John Furrier