McAfee's shameless safety spiel

Hoping to promote the latest version of its SiteAdvisor software, McAfee today issued results from a study on the relative riskiness of search engine search results pages. By riskiness, the McAfee people mean the likelihood that a link from, say, a Google results page, will lead an unsuspecting rube to a dark and dangerous back alley of spammers, pornographers, and possibly KGB agents. (More on that below.)

The upshot? McAfee says 4.4% of all search engine results are highly risky, a number that doubles if you happen to be doing "adult" searches. (Shocker!) Hey it's no picnic out there, but let's just say browsing the web is still a lot less risky than doing crystal meth. Here's the news you can use, though: 41.0% of links deemed risky are so categorized because they lead to webpages built by spammers trolling for your email address.

Listen up kids: Don't give your email address to strangers.

The real juice, however, is in a separate report that McAfee released Friday which suggests that organized crime, hoping to go cyber, has taken its recruiting efforts to college campuses. Writes ZDNet UK: "The report...'Organised Crime and the Internet', alleges that organised criminal gangs are employing tactics used by intelligence services, such as the former KGB, to groom skilled young IT enthusiasts into joining illegal networks."

Perhaps, but beware the tendency towards generalization and stereotype, as in the following money quote from McAfee "security analyst" Greg Day: "Places like India and Russia produce a lot of IT students. These places where there are poorer economies lend themselves to this kind of career. Organised criminals are sponsoring the IT education of some students."

Of course, when selling anti-virus software, it's always helpful to conjure the image of three billion malicious Asian IT students. So, good on the ZDNet guys for not swallowing this alarmist line whole: "When pushed," they write, "McAfee's Day could not come up with any specific evidence of incidents of IT students being groomed by gangs."

So while it's always smart to be prudent, there's no need to lose sleep over dangerous search engine results or KGB-trained hacker freshman just yet.
Posted by Oliver Ryan 8:48 AM 0 Comments comment | Add a Comment

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