McAfee Report: AOL Safest Search Engine, Yahoo! Most Dangerous

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One year after it’s first study of the safety of search engines McAfee, Inc released an update to their The State of Search Engine Safety report.

The study includes the top five search engines Ask, AOL, Google, MSN, and Yahoo!, which account for about 93% of searches. Search safety was analyzed using the over all Mcafee SiteAdvisor ratings as rating specific types of dangers: browser exploits, e-mail, downloads, scams, annoyances (such as pop-ups), and links to other such sites. The analysis found that, overall, the trend for search engine results has become safer. However Yahoo! and MSN have become for dangerous, with Yahoo! up 1.1% to 5.4% and MSN showing a .3% increase to 4.2%. AOL returns the safest results with 2.9% of dangerous results. This even beats Google, which is a curious result, as AOL uses Google’s search engine. What is it that AOL is doing to achieve this? Ask improved their results the most in the last year with a decrease of 2.6%.

Most Dangerous Google Zeitgeist Categories:

1. Digital Music 19.1%
2. Tech Toys 18.1%
3. To Do Online 17.5%
4. Technology Queries 13.5%
5. Christmas Craze 11.8%

Keywords returning the most risky results:

1. bearshare 45.9%
2. screensavers 42.0%
3. limewire 37.1%
4. kazaa 34.9%
5. lime wire 33.3%

Another interesting finding from the study, is that scam sites (sites selling free software, ringtone sites with misleading billing practices, and deceptive work-at-home ploys) are more often found in sponsored results (paid for results). Scam sites represent 3.2% of sponsored results, and only .07% of organic results. The search engines could work to keep scam sites from buying advertising from their systems, which could greatly lower this number. Unfortunately this is seemingly not aggressively practiced, and in reality it may be a result of business objectives. Blocking even the most notorious of bad ads from advertising systems, could cause a negative affect on revenue. So, their is incentive to “look the other way”.

Online risk is of course greatly influenced by individual activity, although the safety of search is also dependent on how well the search engines filter out dangerous sites from their results. It is not yet clear if the trend for search engine safety will continue to improve, and unfortunately scammers, crooks and those engaged in malicious activity continue to look for new ways to achieve their objectives. If search engine companies continue to improve their efforts to improve the safety, they will win customer loyalty which will in turn improve their revenue. Creating a win/win situation.

For the full report please visit: The State of Search Engine Safety

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