Want To Stay Safe On The Web? Stop Looking For Free Stuff

The advent of the Internet has gradually made a lot of things free, as in beer or otherwise. And people love free stuff, so unsurprisingly many turn to search sites to scour the Web for free music, movies, software and other digital media.

Which in turn significantly increases the risk of landing on websites filled with malicious links, code, ads and video viewing tools, security software maker McAfee now reports.

In said report, company researchers outlined several threats, including the threat of looking for “free” software, MP3s and streaming videos. The research found that adding the word “free” to a search for music ringtones, for example, resulted in a 300 percent increase in the riskiness of sites returned by major search engines in English.

The word “free” in other languages yielded similar results.

McAfee also reports that it has found thousands of malicious websites associated with fan clubs or comments made on social media sites, such as YouTube and Twitter.

Malicious advertising or “malvertising,” where an ad is used to distribute malware or exploit the user’s browser, is a common means of infection and not limited to unknown websites, McAfee warns. The company says that it identified “malvertising” on perezhilton.com earlier this Summer, and lots of other legitimate websites have shared that pain in the past (us included).

In short: a lot of free content is available on the Web, but that doesn’t mean it always comes without cost. Browse vigilantly. And please stop searching for pictures of Cameron Diaz.

But don’t forget to click our ads regardless – I’m told they’re perfectly safe.