A German security company spent 18 months analyzing malware among millions of Web sites ranked by the world’s most popular search engines and concluded Google was safer than Bing.
More than half of the 40 million Web sites analyzed by the AV-Test Institute in Magdeburg, Germany were provided equally by search heavyweights Google and Microsoft’s Bing. The number of malicious sites found was actually small — 5,000, according to the study — but did show who was better at protecting its users from clicking on infected pages. Malware was found in 272 of almost 11 million Web sites tested from Google’s results, compared to 1,285 of an almost identical volume using Bing. Yandex, which is sometimes referred to as the “Russian Google,” actually performed the worse with 3,330 infected sites among 13.69 million Web sites tested.
In other words, Bing delivered five times the malware as Google while Yandex called up 10 times as many Trojan- and spyware-laden Web sites.
Malware developers seem to employ similar tactics as legitimate content producers to game the system, creating search engine optimized Web sites and blogs rife with frequently used search terms. In many of the instances from the AV-Test study, the SEO keywords were culled from top news stories and backlinks. This helps elevate tiny sites higher in search engine rankings and leads to a greater chance a user will click a malicious link since the typical consumer finds Google or Bing news feeds more trustworthy than general Web searches.
AV-Test said its research also revealed antivirus programs detected the malware 92.5 to 100 percent of the time, depending on the software’s strength.
“All of the Web sites tested revealed a total of 5,000 potential pieces of malware. When fed into calculations, this result only leads to a small overall percentage of infected Web sites,” according to a report. “Nevertheless, it is important to remember that Google alone deals with a phenomenal total of 2 to 3 billion search requests worldwide every day. If this total is factored into the calculations, the total number of Web sites containing malware found by the search engine is enough to make your head spin!”