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Jun 11, 2009 at 12:50am IST

Most dangerous search terms on the Internet

Hong Kong, (China): If you like to search for "music lyrics" or "free" things, you are engaging in risky cyber behavior. And "free music downloads" puts 20 per cent of Web surfers in harm's way of malicious software, known as "malware."

Searches that use "free," "music" and "download" are at increased risk of malicious software.

A new research report by US-based antivirus software company McAfee has identified the most dangerous Internet search words that places users on pages with a higher likelihood of malware.

WORDS OF WORRY? Antivirus software company McAfee has identified the most dangerous Internet search words.

The study examined 2,600 popular keywords on five major search engines- Google, Yahoo, Live, AOL and Ask - and analysed 413,000 Web pages.

"Just in the past year, we've seen a pretty dramatic shift in what we call malware," David DeWalt, president and CEO of McAfee, told Richard Quest for CNN's Quest Means Business.

"It went from a hacker in a basement, to organized cybercrime to now, literally, terrorism and other forms of organized geopolitical attacks," he said.

Categories that had the highest risk of run-ins with malware: screensavers, free games, work from home, Olympics, videos, celebrities, music and news.

Riskiest terms: word unscrambler, lyrics, myspace, free music downloads, phelps, game cheats, printable fill-in puzzles, free ringtones and solitaire.

The study shows how cyber criminals are increasing in sophistication.

"We can have massive outages with a hacker in the basement - we saw that recently with the 'Twitter worm,' a 17-year-old in his basement basically perpetrated tens of millions of (computer) outages, or we can see an organized attack bringing down infrastructure," DeWalt said.

Antivirus software companies lag behind latest developments by cyber criminals. "We've been way behind, that's true for the entire world, the global infrastructure of the Internet has grown dramatically - 50 per cent of the world's PCs are unprotected," he said.

Despite the increased risk, DeWalt doesn't believe there will be a "cyber Armageddon" causing widespread destruction of computers and Internet infrastructure.

"Last week, you saw President Obama in the United States talk about a major cyber-security initiative sponsored by the government, other governments are sponsoring this as well," DeWalt said. "I think we're learning this can happen, and if we get ahead of it, we can prevent it."

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