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Searching on the web may be dangerous for reasons you won’t think of

Searching for “bad” sites may not be as dangerous as we all think. McAfee (antivirus software vendor) recently published a study of common search phrases to find out how frequently malicious software would be found at the resulting sites. Looking for free stuff seems to be more risky than porn, the authors of the study have found. They explain the risk as resulting from a combination of factors that together take advantage of how we seem to use and trust search engines. As the “hackers” or cybercriminals are learning to take advantage of how to optimize web pages and sites for high rankings in search engines like Google, they can focus “attractive” sites for topics of current interest. Then they can trick people into downloading and installing “malware”, software with malicious payloads like keystroke loggers or bogus antivirus software.

McAfee researchers combed through thousands of popular keyword searches to analize the frequency with which they found malicious software at each link. They found that common “bad” searches we associate with getting hit with malicious software, like pirated software or pornography, actually rank fairly low on the risk scale. Things like lyrics to popular songs and free screen savers work better to lure people in.

Just because it comes up high on a Google search, doesn’t mean that it is any more honest, trustworthy or truthful.

The full study, in PDF format, is at:


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