TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Search Engines Sometimes Return Risky Results

Search Engines Sometimes Return Risky Results

Anick Jesdanun, AP (
Wed, 13 Dec 2006 13:44:31 -0600

Study: 4 pct of search results risky
By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer

It's slightly safer to use search engines, but about 4 percent of
search results still lead to sites deemed risky, a new study finds.

Ben Edelman, a security expert who serves as an adviser to security
software vendor McAfee Inc., said that although the overall riskiness
of search engines declined 12 percent since May, some 4.4 percent of
results still lead to sites flagged with a "red" warning or a
cautionary "yellow" by McAfee's SiteAdvisor service.

SiteAdvisor rates sites based on whether they result in spyware,
viruses, excessive pop-up ads, junk e-mail or other threats. The study
was conducted by running about 2,500 popular keywords through the top
five search engines -- Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN,
Time Warner Inc.'s AOL ad IAC/InterActive Corp.'s Ask.

Risks are about three times greater when clicking on keyword ads that
make up much of these companies' revenues, and adult-related search
terms are twice as risky as non-adult terms, the study found. Queries
containing the word "free" are also more likely to produce risky

Getting malicious software isn't the only threat from search engines.

Security experts say that some hackers have used search engines to
find sites with security vulnerabilities to exploit. Others have used
cleverly crafted keywords to locate confidential documents and
passwords inadvertently left on public Web sites.

Search companies, meanwhile, have taken steps to mitigate the risks.
Google, for instance, sometimes flags links to sites it deems risky.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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