- Search terms "no experience jobs near me" (44%), "hospitality jobs" (40%), and "conflict resolution training" (38%) yield the most potential malware links, making them the most dangerous work-related searches.
- One in four links associated with job searches contains potential malware.
- One in 10 links associated with AI training searches contains potential malware.
- 23% of links associated with cybersecurity searches contain potential malware.
- Searches for "how to market on Instagram" are 42% more likely than searches for "how to market on TikTok" to contain malware.
Getting more than search results
A quick internet search produces a wealth of information on any subject, which can be especially helpful when researching information for work or when looking for a new job. But sometimes search results deliver more than information. Malware is a persistent threat, easily sneaking into systems and harming computers, networks, and servers. Are certain search terms more susceptible to malware than others?
To identify the most dangerous work-related search terms, we compiled a list of the most common terms and sorted them into six categories. We then conducted a Google Chrome search for each term and collected the first 50 result links, ran the links through a malware detector tool, and flagged terms with a medium or greater risk level. Which terms bring the greatest risk of malware, and which are safer to search? Keep reading to discover our findings and learn how to minimize the chances of malware infection.
Work-from-home to hack-from-home
Many individuals and companies rely on the internet to conduct business, but with the convenience of easy customer access comes the risk of malware infection. Let's see which work-related categories and searches pose the greatest threat to security.
Based on our data, internet queries within the job search category were the most likely to lead to system infection, with 26% of associated links containing potential malware. Searches regarding job training and courses were the second most risky, followed by cybersecurity searches ironically.
With the job search category posing the most malware risk, it tracks that the two most dangerous work-related search terms concerned job searches. The search for "no experience jobs near me" resulted in 44% of links with potential malware, while "hospitality jobs" netted 40%. In the job training and courses category, "conflict resolution training" searches presented the third greatest risk with 38% unsafe links.
Conversely, searches for "how to measure customer retention" were the safest, with only 6% of associated links posing a threat.
Identifying malware risks in every corner of the digital landscape
Now that you've seen a basic overview of the least secure work-related search categories and terms, let's take a closer look at all six categories and identify the least and most secure searches within each.
The job search category was the least secure overall and had the two riskiest search terms, but other category search terms led to some surprising findings. Searches for "education jobs" yielded 32% potential malware links, while searches for "tech jobs" only yielded 18%. Opposite of what you might expect, this made searches for "education jobs" 78% more likely to contain malware than searches for "tech jobs."
That said, the tech industry should tread carefully. With the industry in some disarray, massive tech layoffs and cost-cutting measures may lead to an increased risk of cybersecurity threats due to improper offboarding practices and understaffing. It may also lead to increased malware threats for tech workers searching for new employment.
Training and education for both hard and soft work skills are imperative for professional development, and malware hackers are eager to take advantage of the need. Searches for "conflict resolution training" resulted in 38% potential malware threats, the third least secure search overall. Search terms "negotiation training," "data science courses," "public speaking courses," and "coding courses" each resulted in more than 25% hazardous links.
A hot topic in and out of the workplace, many users are seeking information on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Professionals wanting to upskill in that department will be glad to know that only one in 10 links associated with "AI training" searches contained potential malware. However, given AI's rapid development and adaptation, searches for such training are likely to increase in volume—and malware threats are sure to follow.
Cybersecurity measures are designed to protect you from malware and other such threats, but research on the topic can expose users to a fair amount of danger. Over one in five links associated with cybersecurity searches contained potential malware. The riskiest terms were "hash password generator" (32%), "encryption algorithms" (32%), and "firewall hardening checklist" (30%).
Cybersecurity can be especially tricky for companies with remote workers. Securing employee devices, whether company-supplied or employee-owned, is critical for protecting sensitive business information.
Trying to get ahead in your career is stressful enough without worrying about malware attacks, so those seeking career or interview advice need to stay alert when online. Searches for "how to negotiate a higher salary," "how to build a personal brand," and "how to accept a job offer" all resulted in 28% potential malware links. Questions regarding the job search were only slightly less risky; "how to write a cover letter" yielded 24% unsecured links, and "what should I wear to a job interview" and "how long should a resume be" netted 22%.
Smart marketing is crucial for building a business, but that doesn't make it safe. Marketing on social media is especially important—and risky. Searches regarding social media marketing had the highest potential for cyber hacks as the three most insecure searches were about marketing on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Searches for "how to market on Instagram" were 42% more likely than searches for "how to market on TikTok" to contain malware, making the video-based platform slightly safer search-wise.
Finally, nothing can get done in business or life without high productivity rates. Companies and individuals are always on the lookout for productivity hacks; meanwhile, malware hackers are determined to bring productivity to a halt. The productivity search terms with the greatest risk of malware threats were:
- "Essential oils for productivity" (26%)
- "Best productivity software" (24%)
- "AI productivity tools" (24%)
It will be interesting to see if searches about AI tools will become more risky as the technology becomes more widespread.
Cybersecurity implications of mental health searches
A challenging workplace can worsen mental well-being concerns. As many seek online mental health resources, the threat of malware intensifies. Explore popular search terms — all exceeding 6,000 searches last month — with the most hidden cybersecurity risks.
In today’s digital age, people often turn to online platforms to seek solace and support for their mental well-being. While the internet offers many resources, it’s essential to tread cautiously, especially when searching for a local psychiatrist, virtual therapy, or meditation music.
Our findings indicated that searching for “meditation music” poses a much higher risk of encountering potential malware than queries on learning “how to meditate.” For a safer online experience, consider sourcing meditation tracks and other menthol health support from reputable sites or talk to a physician. This way, you can harness the vast online resources for mental health but with an added layer of security and confidence.
Protecting your searches while on and off the clock
Digital technologies are vital to workplace performance, and online searches are the go-to resource for most information seekers. Unfortunately, a task as routine as a Google search can expose users to malware infections and security threats.
To avoid falling prey to malware, individuals and companies should employ anti-virus and anti-malware software, routinely update and upgrade system security, and use passwordless multi-factor authentication to restrict account access. By being aware of and proactive against malware threats, users can protect their data and keep their systems safe and secure.
Based on search volume, we curated lists of search terms for different work-related categories to explore which could be the most dangerous. To do so, we collected the first 50 links from the desired search term and ran them through a malware detector tool. The percentages shown demonstrate links per search that contained a medium risk or greater as flagged by the tool.
Additionally, we explored malware risk associated with mental health searches. We used the same process mentioned above to analyze these high search volume terms, which all had at least 6,000 searches in the last month.
Disclaimer: The links used for this research were collected from Google Chrome. However, an individual's unique search algorithm may alter links viewed, therefore altering the number of potential malware threats.
About Beyond Identity
Beyond Identity provides passwordless and phishing-resistant MFA solutions to secure digital business. We also are the only Zero Trust Authentication on the market that lets you lay the foundation for zero trust by letting you continuously assess device risk.
Fair use statement
This study, data, and commentary are available to share for noncommercial purposes only; a backlink must be provided so readers can access our full findings and methodology.