search and destroy
Posted by Sheila Shayon on August 20, 2010 11:15 AM
Antivirus software maker McAfee isn't just going to Intel for a cool $7 billion-plus in cash. It's also warning Web users about the dangers of celebrity-seeking online.
Let's say you're interested in Eat, Pray, Love and searching for the latest on Julia Roberts. Simply searching for her name—or that of a raft of other celebs—attracts phishing attempts and all manner of dastardly Internet scams. But it's not Roberts who's causing all the mayhem online.
That honor goes to Cameron Diaz, who Intuit named as 2010's "most dangerous celebrity in cyberspace" for her personal brand's online allure to fans and criminals alike.
“People love searching for their favorite celebrities but just don’t understand the dangers," says Dave Marcus, McAfee's security researcher who heads up the annual celebrity online-crime study. "We’re not saying don’t search for these celebrities, but there are some risks associated with it.”
Marcus’s research team found in their fourth annual look at how hackers and other digital deviants are using celebrities as bait that Web searches for Diaz have a 10% chance—more than any other celebrity—of a "poisonous site" landing.
No fools they, cyber criminals target popular celebrity searches to lure unsuspecting fans to click on a photo or video or other link lure them into sites, and then infect them with “pernicious software.”
Although Diaz may have peaked with the 1990’s hit There’s Something About Mary, her more recent dual film release of Knight and Day with Tom Cruise (#8 at the box office) and Shrek Forever After (which didn’t even break the top 10) put her back on top with cyber-criminals whose M.O. is trending topicality. (Either that, or they're pining for a Charlie's Angels remake.)
Once caught in their web, naive web surfers are vulnerable to spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other destructive malware. McAfee's underlying pitch: forewarned is forearmed, especially if you protect yourself with McAfee’s SiteAdvisor technology, naturally.
“This year, the search results for celebrities are safer than they’ve been in previous years, but there are still dangers when searching online," Marcus comments.
Rounding out the top 5, after Diaz McAfee lists Julia Roberts at #2, Jessica Biel at #3, Gisele Bündchen #4, and Brad Pitt at #5. (Click here for the complete list.)
Interestingly, politicians are less high-profile bait for cyber scammers: U.S. President Barack Obama is ranked at #49 and Sarah Palin at #50.