From the headlines splashed across the blogosphere today you could easily get the impression that Bing is littered with malware, and that anyone using Microsoft’s search engine was likely to get infected and have a bad day. This isn’t true. In fact you’re very unlikely to encounter malware through a Bing search.
A study by AV-Test titled Google vs. Bing: Search Engines Deliver Infected Websites as Their Top Results inspired headlines screaming in a tabloid manner that Bing is five times worse than Google when it comes to malware. While this may indeed be true, the story is meaningless without the numbers involved being examined.
The study looked at 40 million websites found through various search engines. In total just 5,000 pieces of malware were found, which means there is around an 8,000-1 chance of hitting malware with any search. I’ll take those odds.
In terms of specific search engines, yes, Google looks a little safer than Bing, serving up 272 dodgy results from almost 11 million total. Bing served up 1,285 dodgy results from roughly the same total, so the “five times” being bandied about is pretty meaningless.
If you use Bing regularly you stand a 0.012 percent chance of hitting malware with any individual search. I suggest that puts a rather different spin on the whole thing.
Statistics are a strange beast. Oftentimes both sides of an argument can use the same set to prove an opposing point, and subtle changes are all that is required. This debacle, which shows how a random study can be used to beat Bing around the head, is a case in point.
The real story is that both Google and Bing are doing a great job at weeding out malware. If you’re careful what you search for and what you click on, and have protection in place in case of an infection, you have virtually nothing to worry about. And no amount of scaremongering is going to change that.