Monday, June 18, 2007

Where Are Search Engines Sending You?

Every so often, McAfee (the company that provides popular security software for home and business computers) evaluates the safety of the links generated by the most popular search engines. In early June, they released "The State of Search Engines" as a 2007 follow-up to similar reports written in 2006.

If you've ever run a site analysis using McAfee, you'll know that they use a color-coded system to flag sites that feature security risks such as spyware loaders, high-volume spam generators, hyper pop-up ad creation, etc. This particular study theorizes that people rely on search engines to get what they want. So, the company reviews just how frequently search engines expose you to sites that they consider dangerous to your computer's security.

Here are their key findings:
  • Overall, 4.0% of search results link to risky Web sites, which marks an improvement from 5.0% in May 2006. Dangerous sites are found in search results of all 5 of the top US search engines (representing 93% of all search engine use).
  • The improvement in search engine safety is primarily due to safer sponsored results. The percentage of risky sites dropped from 8.5% in May 2006 to 6.9% in May 2007.
  • AOL returns the safest results: 2.9 % of results rated red1 or yellow2 by McAfee SiteAdvisor. At 5.4%, Yahoo! returns the most results rated red or yellow.
  • Google, AOL, and Ask have become safer since May 2006, with Ask exhibiting the greatest improvement. The safety of search results on Yahoo! and MSN has declined.

Which engines are you using? And are they safe?

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