All of the major search engines returned risky sites, such as those that install adware or spyware on users’ computers, when popular keywords were searched, according to a new study from security company McAfee, Santa Clara, CA.
McAfee’s SiteAdvisor division, which evaluates the safety of Web sites, studied the search results of nearly 1,400 popular keywords on Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask from January through April.
SiteAdvisor estimates that users make 285 million clicks “hostile sites” every month through search queries and paid search results are worse than organic results, according to “The Safety of Internet Search Engines Report.”
“We are troubled by the untrustworthiness of search engines’ ads. Search engines sells ads to sites that send users literally hundreds of e-mails per week…and sites that infect users’ computers with adware programs,” according to a statement in the report.
Sponsored search results, those paid for by advertisers, were deemed more dangerous than non-sponsored pages. On average, 8.5 percent of sponsored links were found to be dangerous, versus 3.1 percent of non-sponsored links.
MSN search results had the lowest percentage of dangerous sites at 3.9 percent, while Ask.com had the highest percentage at 6.1 percent, according to the study.
“Dangerous” sites made up as much as 72 percent of results for certain popular keywords, such as “free screensavers”, “digital music” and “popular software”.