Searching for free stuff on the Internet? Beware what you find.
That's the message form Web safety firm SiteAdvisor. Building on a Wall Street Journal analysis of the 20 million search queries leaked by America Online that found "free" to be the most popular search term, SiteAdvisor warned that the results produced by such searches frequently lead to malicious Web sites.
"Often, so-called 'free' items are anything but free," the company, recently bought by security firm McAfee, stated in its advisory. "Free screensaver and games sites are notorious for bundling spyware and adware with downloads... Free e-card sites often share users' e-mail addresses with third parties and can lead to a never-ending influx of spam... Ringtone sites frequently lure consumers with misleading offers of free tones that ultimately lead to automatic enrollment in paid subscriptions."
The advisory builds upon data improperly released by America Online earlier this month. This week, America Online announced that its chief technology officer, Maureen Govern, resigned, following the fallout from the Internet giant's publishing of 20 million search queries.
The top-3 search queries including the word "free" that led to malicious sites include "free screensavers," "free ringtones," and "free music," the company stated. More than half of all sites returned for a search of "free screensavers" were malicious, not legitimate, SiteAdvisor stated.
Posted by: Robert Lemos