The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms

        Search Engine Risks


A 2009 study by McAfee, Inc., an Internet security company, exposed the riskiest searches one can perform on common search engines like Google and Yahoo. McAfee searched 2,658 popular keywords and phrases across 413,368 URLs to analyze the risk percentage of certain terms. Note that McAfee defines risk percentage as the maximum percentage of “risky” sites a user could encounter on a single page of results, where “risky” means red-flagged for viruses, malware and other damaging items. Here are some notable findings:

     • The study deemed the search term “screensavers” as the most
     dangerous keyword to use in public search engines, because it
     returned a maximum risk of about 59 percent.

     • Entering the word “lyrics” in any phrase in a public search
     engine returns one risky site for every two search results.

     • Any employee who clicks on a search engine result that contains the word
     “free” has nearly a 22 percent chance of infecting your company’s computers
     with threatening material like spyware, spam, adware, viruses or other malware.

     • The least risky search terms are health-related topics and
     searches about the recent economic downturn—these items have
     only a 0.4 percent maximum risk.

It is essential to remember that the list of dangerous search terms is ever changing. Hackers want to impact the highest amount of people with the least amount of effort, so they aim for the key search terms used most. Ill-intentioned hackers also adapt quickly to the fast-paced nature of the Internet and the public circle, so oftentimes social or celebrity events popular at a given moment climb quickly to the top of the Internet’s most dangerous search terms list and are a high risk for infecting your company’s computers.

It’s no secret that your technology company depends on the capabilities of your computer systems to function. So you should be aware that simple actions your employees take could be putting your company’s equipment and networks at risk of cybercrime, including cyber attacks, cyber theft and other computer security incidents. According a 2013 survey of more than 800 small businessowners by the National Small Business Association, the average cost of a single cyber attack was nearly $9,000. Your business is at stake, meaning you should do everything you can to protect yourself.