It's common knowledge that you can catch computer viruses on porn Web
sites. But did you know it's also risky to surf the Web searching for
free movies or music?
A study from McAfee to be released on
Tuesday finds that adding the word "free" when looking for entertainment
content in search engines greatly increases the chances of landing on a
site hosting malware.
For instance, searching for free music
ringtones increases the chances of hitting a malicious site by 300
percent, according to the report, "Digital Music & Movies Report:
The True Cost of Free Entertainment." (PDF)
Searching for "lyrics" for a particular artist is twice as
risky on average as searching for "ringtones" for the same artist for
the first five pages of results, the report found.
the term "MP3" increases the riskiness of music searches in general.
There has been a 40 percent increase in the number of Web sites that are
delivering infected MP3 files or that seem to be built for purposes of
financial fraud or delivering malware, according to the report.
Meanwhile, McAfee found malware associated with a number of Web sites
around the world advertising free downloads of sports games, movies, and
Twelve percent of sites that distribute unauthorized
content are distributing malware, and 7 percent of sites offering
unauthorized content have associations with cybercrime organizations,
the report concluded.
"The sites often look very professional
and attempt to lure the user with the idea of a 'trial period' or even
some nominal fee that is much less than what may ultimately be charged,"
the report says. "Once the user agrees, they have to authorize their
computer to access and interact with computers that are involved in a
wide range of schemes--from money laundering to stealing credentials
such as user names and passwords. In addition, with this access, your
computer is profiled--with all of its software versions, user agents,
and any other date--and this information can be provided to third
parties for malicious purposes. (This is often called
To reduce the chances of landing on malicious
sites, McAfee recommends avoiding the use of the word "free" in
searches for entertainment content, avoiding clicking on links in banner
ads on content sites that aren't well established, not clicking on
links posted in forums and on fan pages, keeping security software up to
date, and using safe search plug-ins like McAfee Site Advisor that
warns of potentially risky sites.