New, Free Website Rating Tool, Norton Safe Web Lite, Protects Against Risky Search Results
According to a new Norton study, more than one in three of the top-trending search terms returned at least 10 percent malicious results, putting people’s computers and personal information at risk from cybercrime. It turns out that between February and May, searching for “tropical dreams sweepstakes” could actually have been a nightmare, and searching for “red hot laugh riot” could have been anything but funny. At the peak of their popularity, these two particular search terms returned a staggering 99 malicious links out of the first 100 results.
This week, celebrity news, online gaming and diseases were among the most poisoned top-trending topics, with terms such as “constance francesca hilton,” “atomic dove” and “melorheostosis” returning more than 45 percent malicious links out of the first 100 results.
To counter these search engine optimization (SEO) poisoned threats, Norton has introduced Norton Safe Web Lite, a free downloadable tool that identifies risky sites before users click on them in search results. Once downloaded from http://safeweb.norton.com/lite, Norton Safe Web Lite is accessible as a small toolbar within either Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. The free toolbar is powered by Norton Safe Web site-rating technology, which is included in Norton Internet Security and Norton 360. Catching risky results before clicking through is critical because nearly 60 percent of unsafe sites identified by Norton Safe Web are found to contain drive-by downloads – threats that can infect a PC without requiring the user to download or install files.
Additionally, the Norton Safe Web scanner for Facebook, which is also free, now offers a convenient “Enable Auto-Scan” option to identify any malicious links on users’ news feeds. The Norton Safe Web scanner for Facebook is available at http://apps.facebook.com/nortonsafeweb.
“Cybercriminals are always looking for the next opportunity to find victims, as evidenced by the high volume of SEO poisoning. Unfortunately for consumers, simply searching for a popular topic and clicking on a poisoned link can have serious consequences,” said Jens Meggers, vice president of engineering, Norton. “Consumers need to arm themselves with tools like Norton Safe Web Lite that are specifically designed to defend against these types of threats.”
The Norton study monitored a major search engine’s top 300 trending search terms and analyzed the top 30,000 search results daily for SEO poisoning over a three-month period, between February and May 2010. The search topics ran the gamut from sporting events to song lyrics to breaking news on criminal cases. Using unethical techniques to “game” search engine algorithms, hackers are poisoning search results, taking advantage of spikes in a topic’s popularity to redirect computer users to misleading applications such as fake antivirus scanners. Some days, more than 250 of the top 300 daily search terms returned more than 10 percent malicious links within the first 100 results. Clicking on these poisoned search results could infect a user’s PC and result in exposing personal information to cybercriminals.