Danger lurks in screensaver searches: internet security report
Looking for cool screensavers, song lyrics and free stuff are among the most dangerous things you can do online, according to a report by internet security company McAfee Inc.
The report, entitled The Web's Most Dangerous Search Terms, warns of sophisticated hackers who use search engine software, coupled with their knowledge of the most popular search terms, to steal users' identities and money, or to infect their computers with malware.
"Hackers are most successful when they can attract a large number of victims. One way to target big crowds online is to track current events-everything from celebrity meltdowns and natural disasters to holidays and popular music," according to the report, released Wednesday.
"One key tool cybercriminals use to snare victims is to get them to download a computer file or program that comes with a malicious payload."
The company searched for more than 2,600 popular keywords and then examined the first five pages of results across each of five major search engines.
Overall, the average risk level of all results pages was just 1.7 per cent. In other words, in a list of 250 results, just over four were risky.
The riskiest search terms were those including variations of the word "screensaver," with an average risk of just over 34 per cent. That means if a consumer landed at the riskiest search page for a typical screensaver search, one in three results would be risky.
Lyrics keyword searches were rated as having a risk factor of just over 26 per cent and phrases that included the word "free" at just over 21 per cent.
The safest were health-related search terms and those about the economic crisis.
"Surprisingly, searches using the keyword 'Viagra,' a popular keyword that is a frequent 'visitor' in our spam filters, yielded the fewest risky sites," the report's authors write.