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05 June 2007, 15:19

Study finds Yahoo searches return highest proportion of risky web sites

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According to a McAfee study, Yahoo's search engine produces more links to dangerous or risky websites than the search engines of Google, MSN, AOL, and Ask. A total of 5.4 percent of the hits that Yahoo provides lead to websites related to spam, malware, e-mail harvesting, and other related issues. The study is based on findings produced by SiteAdvisor, a free browser tool that displays a website's level of risk in a search engine's hit list based on a ranking done by McAfee.

The share of dubious links for all search engines was four percent, one percent lower than a year ago. McAfee says that one reason for this drop is better security in Sponsored Links, which lead to almost three times as many dangerous websites (seven percent) as unsponsored links do. Google recently announced that it would be improving checks of Sponsored Links when it was discovered that one of them led to a malicious website. The lowest incidence of unsafe links was at AOL, where only 2.9 percent of the hits led to dubious websites.

To complicate matters further, the search term makes a big difference. McAfee discovered that, for instance, Google's Zeitgeist category (currently known as "Hot Trends") for "Digital Music" had the greatest number of dubious websites at 19 percent, followed closely by "Tech Toys" and "To Do Online". Interestingly, no item in the top 10 most dangerous categories is related to erotic websites. Likewise, the first erotic term on the top 10 most dangerous search terms is "Hentai" in eighth place. It turns out that terms from the world of file-sharing dominate, such as Bearshare, Linewire, and Kazaa. Almost half of the links related to Bearshare led to a website that McAfee says is dangerous.

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