Yahoo Adds Security Warnings To Search Results

Dennis Faas's picture

Yahoo is to follow Google's leads in highlight potential security risks in sites which show up in its search results.

There are several differences between the two systems. Google highlights the most serious cases -- sites which exploit flaws in browser software and automatically download viruses -- with a warning. In Yahoo's case, the sites will automatically be deleted from the list of results.

Yahoo will also highlight pages which appear to include downloads which are likely to include viruses, spyware (programmes which collect information from a user's computer without their knowledge) and adware (programmes which automatically display advertising material on a computer, for example: through pop-up ads).

Such pages will be listed with a red warning triangle. Unlike Google's system, users will still be able to click on the results and visit the site. With Google, clicking on a flagged link produces a warning page and requires the user to manually cut and paste the site's address. (Source:

The main feature which Yahoo is adding to the system Google uses is highlighting sites which have a poor track record for handling email addresses given by site visitors, either by sending spam or sharing the details with others. Google doesn't currently do this, though a spokesman says they may look into the idea. (Source:

The Yahoo system, named SearchScan, will be run in partnership with security software firm McAfee. Both sides should gain as Yahoo can use McAfee's expertise, while McAfee gets free publicity among Yahoo users. It also means McAfee can use the results to get a better idea of what tactics hackers are adopting.

In theory the new system could increase the number of people using Yahoo for searches. But it's likely that the ease of use and the relevance of results will continue to be the most important factor when people search for results, meaning the brand loyalty to Google will be tough to overcome.

Such systems are unlikely to work perfectly: hackers will always try to be one step ahead, and there's always the potential for legal problems if a search engine wrongly labels a site as malicious. But with one study suggesting two-thirds of computers currently have some form of spyware installed without the user's knowledge, any weapon against security breaches has to be a good thing.

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