May 26, 2006

Rogue ads plague search results

by Brian Turner


A significant number of search engine sponsored listings link to sites containing spyware, viruses, or offer scams to defraud users.

That’s the claim of Ben Edelman who compiled a study for SiteAdvisor detailing which search terms were the most likely to call up rogue ads across different search engines.

Certain keywords were found to be especially vulnerable to rogue ads, with “free screensavers” and “music downloads” are particularly risky areas for being infected with spyware and viruses.

Some ads were little more than email harvesters, who would spam anyone who signed up to the service.

Other ads simply charged users for services which were already available for free, such as one site charging $29 for the free Skype VoIP software.

Overall, the study found that most of the offending sites were present in the sponsored ads, with far fewer such sites found in the natural search results.

Additionally, the study found that MSN was the safest search engine to use, with Google users almost twice as likely to be presented with rogue ads.

Key summaries:

% likelihood of being faced with rogue ads, by search engine:

  • 6.1% Ask
  • 5.3% Google
  • 4.3% Yahoo
  • 3.1% MSN

%likelihood of beig faced with rogue sites – natural results vs paid results:

  • 8.5% Paid results
  • 3.1% Natural results

The overall warning is clear – that search engines that offer advertising are not doing enough to protect their search users from unscrupulous companies.

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Story link: Rogue ads plague search results


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