Incident Response, TDR

McAfee documents riskiest search terms

A McAfee study into 2,600 of the most popular keyword searches on the web has concluded that hunts for "screensavers" present the most risk.

The report released this week shows that users who search for "screensavers" have a 59.1 percent chance that they will be infected by malware on a given page of results.

By category, the most dangerous searches involved keywords containing the word "lyrics" (26.3 percent risk) and "free" (21.3 percent). The safest category searches, meanwhile, related to "health" (four percent) and the "economic crisis" (3.5 percent).

The report also warned of the risk generated by searching for information on "work from home." Variations of this search term -- considered more popular than ever, given the state of the economy -- ranged from a 6.3 percent-risk to a 40 percent-risk of infection.

"This study confirms that scammers consider popular trends when deciding which victims to target," the study said. "This makes common sense. If hackers are now motivated largely by profit, the biggest profits can be wrung from the largest pools of potential victims. And on the web, popular trends and visitor traffic are highly correlated."

In recent months, hackers have been turning to "black-hat" search engine optimization, which involves leveraging popular Google search terms to boost the results of their fraudulent sites.

But the report's authors -- Shane Keats, a research analyst, and Eipe Koshy, software development engineer -- admitted they did not know why any one popular keyword is any more riskier than the next.

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