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Is malware lurking in your search results?

(MoneyWatch) If your Windows PC has automatic updates enabled and is running an anti-virus package, you probably consider yourself fairly safe from online "malware." So should you be concerned about the risk of clicking malware-infected links in ordinary search results?

That's the question that AV-Test, a Germany-based international IT security firm, set out to answer. For the last 18 months, AV-Test has been combing through 40 million search results from leading search engines like Google, Bing and Russian site Yandex.

The results? Based on 10 million search results, Google had the fewest malware-infected results -- 272 in total (see chart at bottom). Bing was tested with a similar number of results, but had five times the number, at 1,285, of malware hits. Yandex, for its part, did much worse, with 3,330 instance of malware.

That sounds bad, and could easily become part of an ad campaign for Google -- "5 times less malware than Bing" -- but it's important to put these results in perspective (something that the AV-Test report doesn't really do).

Keep in mind that 272 positives against 10 million results is about .00272 percent -- a negligible result. Fives times that -- .01285 percent -- is still so small as to be virtually immeasurable. Bottom line: Both of the major U.S. search engines should be applauded for minimizing the security risks of clicking on their search results.

Google had the lowest incidence of malware in search results, according to one recent study. AV-Test
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