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Home » Hacking News » Sponsored search results spread malware

Sponsored search results spread malware

by Ivana Strahija on May 14th, 2006 A recent study revealed frightening numbers: Sponsored search results contained two to four times as many dangerous sites as organic search results.

Ben Edelman and Hannah Rosenbaum of SiteAdvisor have compiled a study showing dangers of searching the net, which involved Yahoo, Google, Ask, MSN and AOL. The 'safety of internet search engines' study revealed that all search engines list dangerous web sites, with MSN being the safest and Ask being the least security oriented.

It is not surprising that searching for keywords such as 'free screensavers', 'download music' and 'free games' offsets result lists on which 72% of listings are dangerous sites spreading malware (such as adware, spyware, worms, drive-by downloads and phishing sites).

But, what did surprise us was the prevalence of malware sites among sponsored search results, which was a number two to four times higher than the one in regular search results. As the researchers put it themselves: -Profit motivations have shifted search engines' ranking methodologies. Prominent results often reflect solely a site's willingness to pay rather than its quality, relevance, or safety.'

All in all, 4 to 6 % of sites listed when you search for a keyword will turn out to be a dangerous, waiting to infect your computer. Well, that's not so much you might say, but the researchers disagree: -It is estimated that US Internet users conduct 5.7 billion searches per month. Suppose each search yields one and only one click to one of the sites listed in the results. Then even a 5% incidence of red/yellow sites would mean 285 million clicks to these sites every month from search engines.'

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