Results of this year’s Most Dangerous Celebrities study have been released by security company McAfee, and Heidi Klum holds the dubious distinction of being number one on the list. Klum replaces last year’s holder of the top spot, Cameron Diaz. McAfee’s study is in its fifth year now, and was instituted to determine which members of mainstream pop culture present the greatest risk to internet users while performing searches.
The goal of most cybercriminals is to have maximum exposure, and one simple way to do that is to attract visitors by using popular search terms. Celebrities are often a useful target, as many web surfers will search for pictures and videos of their favorite stars. What they may not realize, however, is that some of the sites claiming to offer legitimate content are actually filled with malware intended to infect victims’ computers. Paula Greve, McAfee’s director of web security research, commented on hackers’ tricky ways, especially when it comes to celebrity-related content: “While slightly safer than last year, searching for top celebrities continues to generate risky results. Consumers should be particularly aware of malicious content hiding in ‘tiny’ places like shortened URLs that can spread virally in social networking sites, or through e-mails and text messages from friends.”
McAfee analyzed a variety of celebrities for its study to include such groups as actors, athletes, comedians, models, musicians, politicians, and more. The company’s Site Advisor site ratings provided the rankings, which were based on an overall risk percentage to users. Klum’s place in the top spot among her colleagues comes due to the fact that approximately nine percent of site results coming from internet searches using her name contain malware of some kind in the form of phishing attacks, adware, spam, spyware, or viruses. Searches that combine Klum’s name with terms such as downloads, hot pictures, videos, and screensavers put users at a decent risk of running into a malicious site.
Cameron Diaz, Piers Morgan, and Jessica Biel rounded out the top four in McAfee’s rankings. Diaz dropped from her top ranking a year ago, while Morgan is entirely new to the list. Biel was previously named 2009’s most dangerous celebrity. The next five slots are occupied by Katherine Heigl, Mila Kunis, Anna Paquin, Adriana Lima, and Scarlett Johansson. Number ten is a three-way tie between Emma Stone, Brad Pitt, and Rachel McAdams. Notable absentees who dropped out of the top ten in this year’s rankings include Gisele Bundchen, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Tom Cruise. Besides Morgan, Heigl, Kunis, Stone, and McAdams are all fresh faces to the top ten.
In terms of the overall breakdown of celebrities, models seem to be particularly dangerous, especially those from Victoria’s Secret. Heidi Klum’s and Adriana Lima’s rankings back up this assertion. On the flip side, athletes and singers are much less risky to search for. Pro tennis players Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick plummeted in this year’s rankings. The two held the number 13 and 14 spots last year and now sit far back at number 44 and 56, respectively. Popular singers such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, and Lady Gaga are way behind the rest of the celebrity pack, with rankings ranging from 49 to 58. Another trend worth mentioning that is easy to notice when looking at the top ten is that searches for female stars are much riskier than those for their male counterparts. It’s not much of a mystery why this is the case, as pictures and videos of popular Hollywood vixens are always in high demand from virtual admirers.
One surprising finding from McAfee’s study concerns industry headlines and tabloids. There aren’t many celebrities who made more of a headline splash in the past year than “Two and a Half Men” star Charlie Sheen. Regardless, Sheen came in at number 59 on the list. Searches involving Sheen present a less than three percent chance of a malicious site encounter. Actress Lindsay Lohan has been no stranger to the tabloids either, but her rather infamous popularity only put her in the number 18 slot. Lohan tied with singer Gwen Stefani and actress Reese Witherspoon. “Hot movies and TV shows, awards and industry accolades seem to be more of a factor than headline-grabbing activity,” Greve said.
As to how you can protect yourself from the so-called most dangerous celebrities, you should have a solid, updated antivirus program running on your computer. Common sense plays a huge part in fighting malware infections as well. You should only visit trusted sites, and avoid clicking on suspicious links. This is not only true when it comes to internet searches and browsing the web, but also applies to email and messages or links received from friends on social networking sites.
For more on this topic, visit http://www.mcafee.com/us/about/news/2011/q3/20110915-02.aspx
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