Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How Safe Are Search Engines?

McAfee, the anti-virus people, have done a study comparing how often the major search engines return risky sites in their search results for popular keywords.

The major findings are that results from "sponsored sites" (which have paid for prominent placement) tend to less safe.

"Our core advice: It's a jungle out there. Users should be careful where they go and what they do when choosing sites based on search engine results. Despite search engines' efforts, we see too many sites trying to deceive unsuspecting users. These tricky sites span a range of content areas, keywords, and business models – so there is no simple advice as to how to stay safe. Users can't count on search engines to protect them; to the contrary, we find that search result rankings often do not reflect site safety. Users are at especially high risk when visiting search engine advertisers -- even though search engines are well equipped to impose strict guidelines on sites buying prominent placement."

Methodology: the study compiled 1394 popular keywords using lists from Google Zeitgeist, Yahoo!, AOL, Lycos, Wordtracker, and other sources. It then analyzed the first 5 pages of results for those words from Google, Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, and Ask.

"We assess the safety of listed sites by consulting SiteAdvisor's Web safety database. SiteAdvisor safety ratings are based on automated tests that analyze Web sites for exploits, downloads containing spyware, adware, or other unwanted programs, pop-ups, links to dangerous sites, and e-mail submission forms. SiteAdvisor's automated tests are supplemented by feedback from volunteer reviewers, comments from Web site owners and input from SiteAdvisor analysts."
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:41 pm

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