Searching for ‘free’ content greatly increases risk of malware

14 Sep 2010

McAfee has released a study which has found that adding the word ‘free’ when looking for media content in search engines greatly increases the chances of finding malware.

According to their report, Digital Music and Movies Report: The True Cost of Free Entertainment, adding “free” on a search for ringtones increases the risk of contracting malware by three times.

Lyrics searches were found to be twice as risky within the first five pages of searching, however, ringtones were noted to be more dangerous overall.

Including the term “MP3” increases malware risk to any search.

Searches for artists who made it into the charts were also risky. In fact, the higher the popularity of the artist, the riskier they are.

The study found that 4pc of searches for Justin Bieber’s song Baby in both the US and Japan led to risky sites.

It also found thousands of malicious URLs associated with fan clubs or comments made on fan pages, even within Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter.

In film, the results found that searching for movies that are not available globally yet or have not been released yet, such as the latest Harry Potter film, are incredibly risky.

Between 2009 and 2010, the study found that there was a 40pc increase in websites that deliver infected MP3 files or seem to be built with the sole purpose of conducting some sort of cyber crime on people looking for MP3 files online.

The report also found 12pc of sites that distribute unauthorised content have malware and 7pc of sites providing unauthorised content are associated with cyber crime organisations.

McAfee makes numerous recommendations for users to avoid this malware, such as avoiding searching for free content and instead, sticking to legitimate paid content.

They also recommend not clicking on banner ads on music, movies or download sites that aren’t well established and to keep all anti-virus software up to date.