In a recent study, Surfshark analyzed search results obtained by Googling for downloads of popular software, and their findings are enough to make you shudder: up to 64 per cent of links in search results for some programs were to sites spreading malware.
The search for “Avid software” appears to be the most dangerous, with search results containing 64.4 per cent of potentially dangerous links.
The methodology used by Surfshark was simple. The company first compiled a list of the most popular software, divided into five categories: social media, web browsers, crypto wallets, small business and creativity. It used softwareadvice.com‘s extensive database to determine the most popular applications.
Then it ran Google searches using the names of the software paired with the terms “download” and “torrent.” It finally analyzed the first five pages of results using a malware scanner. All results identified as medium or higher risk were considered potentially dangerous.
Across all categories, one-third of search results are risky, and six searches returned more than 50 per cent potentially dangerous links. These are searches for “Avid software” (64.4 per cent), “Substance 3D Printer” (57.32 per cent), “Sketch software” (56.38 per cent), “Substance 3D Stager” (56.25 per cent), “Maxon Cinema 4D” (55 .1 per cent) and “V-Ray” (53.76 per cent)
It is the “creativity” category which shows the worst results, Avid software being one of these.
In the social media category, Twitter leads, with 48.3 per cent of search results pointing to potential malware.
The small business software category is dominated by the workforce management tool Hubstaff, with 44.3 per cent of potentially dangerous search results.
Lumi Wallet, with 47.1 per cent of questionable results, sits at the top of the crypto-wallets category, while the top of the web browser category is occupied by the Vivaldi browser, with 39.53 per cent of results when you search for a download that are dangerous.
Of some concern, most major web browsers – including Microsoft Edge (32.58 per cent), Safari (30.23 per cent), Opera (30.12 per cent), Chrome (29.87 per cent), Brave (23.60 per cent) – are among the 10 browsers whose downloads are the riskiest to search for.
To protect yourself, Surfshark offers 5 pieces of sound advice:
- Always stick to reliable sources for downloads
- Choose secure sites (https:// instead of http://)
- Make sure your browser is up-to-date
- Choose a trusted ad blocker to help stop malware
- Install a good anti-virus program and keep it up-to-date
The full study results are available on the Surfshark website.