Searches for Free Music Downloads, Lyrics, or Screensavers Revealed as Most Likely to Lead to Adware or Malware Laden Sites
SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 27, 2009 - Some of the riskiest searches on the Internet today are associated either with finding items for free, such as music or screensavers, or looking for work that can be done from home, according to Internet security company McAfee, Inc. (NYSE:MFE). Search categories like these are used to lure unsuspecting consumers to their Web sites. Hackers and cybercriminals are often able to persuade searchers to download files carrying malicious software that can cause consumers to expose their personal and financial data.
McAfee’s report on The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms describes how cybercriminals maximize their profits by seeking the largest pool of possible victims with popular search terms about current events, gadgets and celebrities. During the recession, McAfee has observed a growing number of malicious search results targeted at people who want to save money or earn extra income working at home.
“Cybercriminals are smart,” said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee Product Development & Avert Labs. “Like sharks smelling blood in the water, hackers will create related Web sites laden with adware and malware whenever a particular topic increases in popularity. Unsuspecting consumers are then tricked into downloading malicious software that leads them to blindly hand over their personal assets to cybercriminals.”
McAfee researched more than 2,600 popular keywords (as defined by Google Zeitgeist, Yahoo! Buzz and others sources) to assess the degree of risk for each. Maximum Risk refers to the maximum percentage of risky sites a user might encounter on a single page of search results.
As defined by McAfee, the riskiest set of keyword variations was “screensavers” with a maximum risk of 59.1 percent. Nearly six out of the top 10 search results for “screensavers” contain malware. One of the single riskiest search terms in the world is “lyrics,” with a maximum risk factor of one in two. Surprisingly, searches using the word Viagra, a popular keyword that is also common in spam e-mail messages, yielded the fewest risky sites. Searches with the safest risk profile included health-related terms and searches about the current economic crisis.
Penny-Pinchers and Home Workers Beware
Consumers looking to save money, and/or searching for means of additional income, should take note: searchers clicking on results that contain the word “free” have a 21.3 percent chance of infecting their PCs with online threats, such as spyware, spam, phishing, adware, viruses and other malware. “Work from home” searches can be as much as four times riskier than the average risk for all popular terms as illustrated by this table:
|Search Term||Maximum Risk|
|Free work from home||40.0%|
|Work from home for free||40.0%|
|Work from home free||40.0%|
|Work from home ideas||25.0%|
|Free work from home jobs||20.0%|
Elsewhere in the World
Outside of the U.S., popular keyword categories were often significantly riskier than those popular in the U.S. Fourteen countries had keyword categories that exposed users to a higher maximum risk than what McAfee identified on average, including the Czech Republic (14.2 percent) and Brazil (12.1 percent). And 12 countries were overall riskier than the average, including Mexico (1.9 percent) and India (1.8 percent). This could be early evidence of a troubling new trend of scammers targeting non-U.S. victims.
Consumers can search more safely on the Web using McAfee SiteAdvisor® Web security software. This free program helps consumers know what is safe and what may be risky on the Web using red, yellow and green ratings. The SiteAdvisor technology with Secure Search provides three benefits: it allows users to block and filter malicious Web sites from search results, provides a Secure Search Box for simplified, convenient security and finally, it integrates the McAfee SECURETM trust mark throughout the consumer Web experience.
About the Report
McAfee searched more than 2,600 popular keywords across each of five major search engines. McAfee examined the first five pages of results for each search engine, for a total of 25 pages of results for each term. Overall, McAfee examined more than 413,000 unique Web addresses.
McAfee SiteAdvisor Technology
McAfee tests and rates nearly every trafficked site on the Internet by using patented SiteAdvisor technology that conducts automated tests on Web sites. Web sites are ranked using intuitive red, yellow and green ratings to educate users about possible dangers or safety before even visiting the site. McAfee SiteAdvisor software can be downloaded quickly and for free at www.mcafee.com/siteadvisor. It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
SiteAdvisor technology has received numerous honors, including five-star reviews from CNET's download.com, Time Magazine’s “50 Coolest Web Sites," Popular Science’s "Best of What’s New" and the U.S. Department of Commerce's "Recognition of Excellence in Innovation" honor.
Cybercrime Response Unit
McAfee recently announced the Cybercrime Response Unit (http://www.mcafee.com/cru), which is a free online service that directs victims to appropriate law enforcement, credit agencies and other resources to address their situation. The site also provides a forensic scanning tool based on McAfee’s Global Threat Intelligence. It assesses whether an individual has malware running on his or her computer or has visited malicious Web sites that may have stolen personal information.
About McAfee, Inc.
McAfee, Inc., headquartered in Santa Clara, California, is the world's largest dedicated security technology company. McAfee is committed to relentlessly tackling the world's toughest security challenges. The company delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that help secure systems and networks around the world, allowing users to safely connect to the Internet, browse and shop the Web more securely. Backed by an award-winning research team, McAfee creates innovative products that empower home users, businesses, the public sector and service providers by enabling them to prove compliance with regulations, protect data, prevent disruptions, identify vulnerabilities, and continuously monitor and improve their security. http://www.mcafee.com
McAfee, SiteAdvisor, McAfee Secure and/or other noted McAfee related products contained herein are registered trademarks or trademarks of McAfee, Inc., and/or its affiliates in the US and/or other countries. McAfee Red in connection with security is distinctive of McAfee brand products. Any other non-McAfee related products, registered and/or unregistered trademarks contained herein is only by reference and are the sole property of their respective owners.