Search Insecurity

Searching for answers online has become the modern-day equivalent of using the phone book: It’s a routine activity that most of us do with little conscious thought. You type a keyword into a search engine, hit “Enter” and go to town.

After reading a report recently published by McAfee Inc., I suspect we may want to rethink the little-conscious-thought part. It turns out that searching for the wrong things can get us into trouble. Lots of it.

Example: You’re sitting in the office waiting for the phone to ring. It’s been a busy week and you’re tired. Thinking a new screen saver might perk up your mood, you pop online and search for one. You click on a few links until you find a theme — let’s say kittens, because everyone loves kittens — and download the file.

Welcome to the danger zone. Hackers, knowing full well that “screen saver” is a hugely popular search term because they actively track these sorts of trends, have been setting up sites that not only serve up that delightful kitty-themed screen saver, but also a surreptitious script that executes during setup and sends your personal and corporate data back to the criminal mother ship.

Accordingly to McAfee, the term “screen saver” is the likeliest of the 2,600 terms studied to expose the searcher to some sort of online risk. Other risky terms include “free games,” “work from home,” “Webkinz,” “free music downloads” and “touch my body lyrics.” No, I didn’t make that…


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