Research: Google reaches malware milestone, while 'true' Twitter users increase

A Barracuda Networks study shows that Google is presenting more malware than Bing, Yahoo and Twitter combined, and that less than 30 percent of Twitter's users are fully using the service. What's going on with the web?

Google has made its name in part by being at the forefront of search and web application innovation. Unfortunately, Google is also at the forefront of a battle that it likely didn't want to win: the search engine presenting the most malware.

In its 2010 midyear security report, Barracuda Networks revealed that Google turns up more than twice the amount of malware was Bing, Twitter and Yahoo! combined. This was determined by examining searches on more than 25,000 trending topics over a two-month time period, which revealed more than 5.5 million search results. Popular search terms used by malware distributors include the name of an NFL player, three actresses, a Playboy Playmate and a college student who faked admission into Harvard. According to Barracuda, Google presents malware at 69 percent; Yahoo! at 18 percent; Bing at 12 percent and Twitter at one percent.

Barracuda also analyzed more than 25 million Twitter accounts, both legitimate and malicious. Barracuda said that this portion of the study was to "measure and analyze account behavior on Twitter in order to model normal user behavior and identify features that are strong indicators of illegitimate account use. The data unveiled is interesting:

  • More people are coming online, and die-hard Twitter users are tweeting more; even casual users of the social network are becoming more active. With more users online, malicious activity increases.
  • Of Twitter's users, only 28.87 percent are "true Twitter users." A true Twitter user is defined as someone who has at least 10 followers, follows at least 10 people and has tweeted at least 10 times. This is an increase compared to 21 percent in January.
  • Thirty percent of all Twitter accounts have never once tweeted.
  • The Twitter Crime Rate for the first half of 2010 was 1.67 percent. Twitter Crime Rate is defined as the percentage of accounts created per month that were eventually suspended for malicious or suspicious activity, or otherwise misused.

“Our study shows that attackers have serious efforts devoted towards getting in front of the billions of eyeballs that are using search engines everyday and the millions of users that are connecting on social networks like Twitter,” said Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer and VP at Barracuda Networks. “Therefore, we continue to analyze their approaches and build new techniques to find them and protect users.”

The results of this study will be presented at Security Bsides Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 28, at 3 p.m. PT, at the 2810 Resort. Visit Barracuda for the full report.

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