Vulnerabilities / Threats
8/25/2009
01:59 PM
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Jessica Biel Searches Deemed Most Dangerous

Searching for celebrities may be one of the most effective ways to infect your computer.

In its third annual list of the most dangerous celebrities in cyberspace, McAfee has found that 20% of searches for "Jessica Biel," "Jessica Biel downloads," Jessica Biel photos" and the like lead to Web sites where malicious content has been detected.

The company defines malicious content as spyware, adware, spam, viruses, or phishing mechanisms. Visiting sites hosting such content, particularly using a computer with software that hasn't been updated to the latest version, can often result in that computer being compromised.

Cybercriminals know that celebrities and popular news generate significant interest among Internet users and thus try to place malware at sites where visitors might seek that sort of information. When such sites prove secure, they will create their own sites with malicious content or post malicious content though a user content submission mechanism and then create spam messages and external Web links to drive search traffic to their trapped sites.

"Cybercriminals are star watchers too -- they latch onto popular celebrities to encourage the download of malicious software in disguise," said Jeff Green, SVP of McAfee Avert Labs, in a statement. "Consumers' obsession with celebrity news and culture is harmless in theory, but one bad download can cause a lot of damage to a computer."

McAfee's list of the top ten most dangerous celebrity searches includes:

01. Jessica Biel
02. Beyoncé
03. Jennifer Aniston
04. Tom Brady
05. Jessica Simpson
06. Gisele Bundchen
07. Miley Cyrus
08. Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie
09. Ashley Tisdale
10. Brad Pitt

If someone or something is popular online, count on cybercriminals trying to associate the topic with malware. Last month, MX Logic, another security company, noted that spammers were using Google Hot Trends, a list of popular search topics, to target spam.

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all make an effort to flag, block or remove malicious content from their search indexes, but cybercriminals typically can create new malicious sites at least as quickly as old malicious content can be removed.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on strategic security. Download the report here (registration required).

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Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.