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Security and anti-virus software maker McAfee conducted a recent study of the five major search engines in the U.S., including Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and Ask.
This is the second year of the now annual study, and the update indicated that although the overall safety risk to search engine users had declined by about 1 percentage point, it was the sponsored results (those paid for by advertisers) that continued to incur the most risk.
The study analyzed the first 50 search results returned by each search engine for 2,300 popular keywords, with each result then compared to McAfee SiteAdvisor's Web Safety database of 8.2 million site safety ratings.
The ratings were broken out into two categories, red and yellow.
Red for sites found to offer adware, spyware, viruses, exploits, spammy email, excessive pop-ups, or strong affiliations with other red sites.
Yellow for sites which merit some caution before use.
Some of the study's key findings:
You can get more detailed data in the full report, including a comprehensive analysis of organic and sponsored results by search engine and an analysis of safety by individual keyword.