Posted December 19, 2006 9:59 am by with 0 comments

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Following up on their May study, McAfee reports that search results have become safer on Google, Ask and AOL. Yahoo and MSN now return riskier results than they did in May.

How does McAfee define “risk”? They have three levels:

Red ratings are given to risky sites that fail one or more of McAfee’s tests for adware, spyware, viruses, exploits, spammy e- mail, excessive pop-ups or strong affiliations with other red rated sites. Green rated sites passed each of these tests. Yellow ratings are given to sites which pass McAfee’s safety tests but which still have nuisances warranting a user advisory.

Overall, “riskiness” declined 12%, with a 6% decline in sponsored search. McAfee considered 8% of sponsored results red or yellow, while only 3% of organic results are classified as red or yellow.

Adult keywords are more likely to return risky results than non adult keywords (8% versus 4.1%). McAfee says the some of the other riskiest keywords are ones including the word “free,” the category of “tech toys” (eg. iPod Nano, WinMX) and, surprisingly, the category of “childhood favorites” (eg. Winnie the Pooh, Tweety). However, the last category only has 6.7% risky results, so shop for your children without fear.

View the full study, including methodology and graphics.