McAfee Report: The Most Dangerous Search Terms on the Web
Article by George Norman
On 28 May 2009
Yesterday we brought you Symantec’s MessageLabs Report for the month of May, 2009, detailing how spam traffic has increased and how delivering spam has evolved in the recent past (details here). Today we bring you one other security oriented piece of news, this time from the Santa Clara-based security software developer McAfee. The aforementioned company has released a report entitled “The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms” and as the name so adequately points out, sheds some light onto how searching for certain items may lead you to malware.

“McAfee searched for more than 2,600 popular keywords. For each keyword, we examined the first five pages of results across each of five major search engines. On average, each keyword generated a little more than 250 results. Overall, we examined more than 413,000 unique URLs (web addresses). We assigned each keyword a category and a country and then ranked them by the risk of their resulting URLs. In addition, using data from Hitwise, a search intelligence company, we conducted much deeper dives into specific keywords. Keywords were ranked in two ways: 1) the average risk of all results and 2) the maximum risk of the riskiest page of results,” says the report.


Key Findings of “The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms” report:
- On average, out of 250 search results, only 4 pose a security risk for the user (overall result including all results pages). For the most risky pages, the average shoots up to over 25 risky pages.
- Searching for the keywords “lyrics” and “free” displays the largest number of risky results. The riskiest keyword variation was “screensavers.”
- Queries with health-related keywords and economic crisis-related keywords are the safest.
- Keywords from non-US countries are more of a risk than keywords popular in the US.

“Like sharks smelling blood in the water, hackers will create related Web sites laden with adware and malware whenever a particular topic increases in popularity. Unsuspecting consumers are then tricked into downloading malicious software that leads them to blindly hand over their personal assets to cybercriminals,” commented Senior Vice President of McAfee Product Development and Avert Labs, Jeff Green.

The report of course presents an in-depth look at the most dangerous keywords by country (and a breakdown according to categories, like economic crisis risky keywords or online shopping risky keywirds). We’ve picked the most dangerous terms for the US:
- word unscrambler
- lyrics
- myspace
- free music downloads
- phelps, webergale, jones and lezak win 4x100m relay
- free music
- game cheats
- printable fill in puzzlesfree ringtones
- solitaire

If you would like to take a look at the “The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms” report from McAfee, you can do so here (PDF warning).

Tags: McAfee, The Web's Most Dangerous Search Terms
About the author: George Norman
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