McAfee: Search queries digging up trouble

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McAfee: Search queries digging up trouble

Study claims four per cent of all results lead to malware.

Four per cent of all search results served up by major search engines are leading users to websites offering deceptive or unwanted downloads, McAfee cautions in a new study.

The study was authored by independent researcher, Ben Edelman. It found that the number of malware results was down one percentage point since last year.

The study evaluated the first fifty results from the 2,300 most popular keywords for Google, AOL, Ask.

"With four out of five website visits starting with a search engine query, consumers are still exposed to hundreds of millions of risky searches per month," said Tim Dowling, vice president of consumer growth initiatives for McAfee SiteAdvisor.

Sponsored search results, which are purchased by site owners and placed at the top or right border the results page, were especially likely to contain dangerous websites. The study found that 6.9 per cent of all sponsored results linked to risky sites.

The figure marks a 1.6 per centage point decrease from last year's 8.5 per cent. The study credits Google's efforts to reduce fraudulent or misleading sponsored listings for this drop.

Harvard Business School assistant professor Ben Edelman challenges the search engines for accepting advertising fees from websites pushing their questionable wares.

"The search engines could do more," he told

"These advertisers rely completely on search engines, so the search engines are uniquely positioned to kill these businesses."

This is not the first time that search wngines, and Google in particular, have come under fire for enabling online criminals to target web users.

Security vendor Exploit Prevention Labs in April demonstrated how malware sites are using Google's AdWords program to lure visitors to malware hosting websites.
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