While most people use Google, everyone knows that Microsoft has been trying very hard to make inroads with Bing. The little search engine does a lot of unique things, and it’s actually better than Google in certain areas (such as image search). Unfortunately, one of those happens to be finding malware.

According to an 18-month study (PDF via PC Mag) by German security firm AV-Test, Google is safer than its main search competitors Bing, Yandex, and Blekko. When it comes to keeping malware out of search results, Google just does it better.

Between August 2011 and February 2013, AV-Test looked at close to 40 million websites delivered by search engines in their search results, with over half being provided by Google and Bing. Other websites examined in the test were accessed from search engines Yandex, Blekko, Faroo, Teoma, and Baidu. Google came out on top, followed by Bing. Here are the top four search engines:

search malware 730x489 Surprise! Bing is five times better than Google at finding malware (Updated)

Those numbers are hard to compare against, so let us do the quick math. Malware showed up in 0.0025 percent of Google’s results, 0.012 percent of Bing’s results, 0.024 percent of Yandex’s, and 0.0067 percent of Blekko’s. In other words, the study found Google is five times better than Bing and 10 times better than Yandex at keeping malware out of search results.

AV-Test gives users the following advice:

The infected websites mostly use malware that exploits existing security vulnerabilities in users’ software. These vulnerabilities normally involve outdated browsers, old add-ons or extensions and out-of-date versions of PDF readers. Users can drastically reduce the likelihood of infection by keeping the software on their systems up to date. They can also guarantee that they have the best possible protection by additionally using high-quality security software that is constantly updated.

Again, these numbers aren’t very high. You shouldn’t feel any less safe using Yandex or Bing rather than Google. Still, the results do show just how much effort Google puts into search.

Update on April 12: Yandex has sent TNW a statement in response to the AV-Test study. “Yandex uses its own proprietary antivirus technology to protect users from malicious software,” a Yandex spokesperson told TNW. “Yandex marks the infected webpages in its search results in order to notify users of unsafe content. We just notify users of possible consequences and do not block access to the webpage completely.”

Update on April 19: Microsoft has also disputed the claims. Below is the crux of the argument:

AV-TEST didn’t actually do any searching on bing.com. Rather they used a Bing API to execute a number of queries and downloaded the result to their system for further analysis. By using the API instead of the user interface, AV-TEST bypassed our warning system designed to keep customers from being harmed by malware.

In short, Bing and Yandex both detect sites with malware, they just block it differently than Google does.

Top Image credit: Flavio Takemoto