Service promises secure 'googling'

Free Scandoo service tags results of Google and other online searches to help fend off spyware and unwelcome content.

A Web-filtering specialist has joined the ranks of companies aiming to take the risk of spyware and adware downloads out of online searches.

ScanSafe will officially launch next week a trial version of a new service that adds labels to the results of popular search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, to identify good sites and call out malicious ones. The free service, dubbed Scandoo, analyzes search results in real time and then adds a green checkmark for clean Web sites and displays an image of a bug next to potentially risky ones.

Search engines don't just link to trusted Web sites. Queries also serve up links to sites that install malicious software or display unwanted content. Each month, U.S. Internet users click on about 285 million unsafe links, according to a McAfee study released last week. Security companies are looking to tackle this problem with products and services.

The new ScanSafe service is similar to McAfee's SiteAdvisor, which also tells Web searchers whether their search results include sites associated with spyware, adware, spam and browser attacks. But SiteAdvisor requires the installation of software, while Scandoo requires people to enter their search query on the Scandoo Web site. It also has a toolbar in the works.

Symantec is working on a product similar to SiteAdvisor as part of its next generation of security software, the company has said.

On average, 3.1 percent of links that appear in search results pose a risk, according to McAfee. This jumps to as much as 72 percent of results for popular queries such "free screensavers," "digital music," and "singers," the security company said.

Scandoo currently works with Google. MSN Search will be added by the end of the week, and Yahoo and Ask are slated to follow in the coming weeks, a representative for London-based ScanSafe said Monday.

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