Bebo tops UK list of most dangerous search terms

Criminals are increasingly using popular search terms to target surfers browsing the web, in a similar way that legitimate businesses try to reach more consumers using search engine optimisation (SEO).

A McAfee report analysed the risk from searching for more than 2,600 of the most popular keywords in 2008, looking at the maximum percentage of risky sites a user could encounter on a single page of search results.

Worldwide, it found that the riskiest term was "screensavers", with six out of 10 search results containing malware, while the keyword "lyrics" had a risk factor of one in two.

Searchers clicking on the word "free" had a 21.3 per cent chance of encountering an infected website, which suggested that hackers were targeting users who were looking to budget and save money.

In Britain, the riskiest term was "bebo", with 33.3 per cent risk, followed by "friv" - a popular flash game site - at 22.2 per cent, and "hotmail" at 20 per cent.

The names of politicians were popular keywords used by scammers, with "Alistair Darling" in fifth, and "Gordon Brown" in eighth place.

McAfee said that using popular terms lured surfers to websites where they could convince searchers to download malicious software simply with a click of their mouse, which could expose confidential and financial data.

"Criminals are smart," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee product development and Avert Labs in a statement.

"Like sharks smelling blood in the water, hackers will create related websites laden with adware and malware whenever a particular topic increases in popularity," he said.

The top ten most dangerous search terms in Britain:

1. bebo 33.3 per cent (chance of finding malware)

2. friv 22.2 per cent

3. hotmail 20.0 per cent

4. yahoo mail 20.0 per cent

5. Alistair Darling 16.7 per cent

6. hot UK deals 14.3 per cent

7. YouTube 14.3 per cent

8. Gordon Brown -12.5 per cent

9. iPhone 12.5 per cent

10. jogos 3.1 per cent