Dangerous Curves Ahead

Who is the most dangerous person on the internet? OBL, with his videos that turn up here and there? Kim Jong-Il, with his government’s own YouTube channel and Twitter account? Julian Assange (whom Idescribed as dangerous not too long ago)? According to the antivirus maker McAfee, it is Jessica Biel Cameron Diaz.*

Why? Cameron Diaz does look like the person who might get any human male off the narrow path of virtue. But that is not the reason McAfeeputs her at the top of a list of most dangerous celebrities in cyberspace. Or perhaps, it is.

According to McAfee, most internet searches for Jessica Biel Cameron Diaz are for Cameron Diaz, Cameron Diaz and downloads, Cameron Diaz and screen savers, Cameron Diaz and wallpaper, Cameron Diaz and photos and Cameron Diaz and videos. [All things visual, not for her political views or IQ, but that’s not a pertinent story for this blog.]

McAfee’s news release says of these searches that, “searching for the latest Cameron Diaz pictures and downloads yields a ten percent chance of landing on a website that’s tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware“.** Scary isn’t it?

But it’s easy to do using meta keywords, meta descriptions and other SEO tricks on a site created for malicious purposes. So that rather than genuine information on Cameron Diaz, the search engine results page (SERP) is fooled into showing these malicious sites higher up in the results. Someone clicking on the link will immediately start downloading – unconsciously, of course g – some or the other malware that can damage his* system, apart from grabbing personal details that may be used by spammers to target him.

Meta keywords and meta descriptions are not visible on the page when it loads, but you can see them in the source. Though they are invisible to human users, the search engine bot reads them, and uses the data in them to index the site. Though some search engines are now rewriting their programs to reduce dependence on such meta data and get their information from the body copy (which the users can see), their are still quite potent. Typical metas would read like this:

When the search engine bot reads these, it indexes the page as a relevant one for Cameron Diaz. When someone is searching for Cameron Diaz, there is a high likelihood that one of these malicious sites will get a high ranking, and get clicked on by the searcher.

Here’s the list of the top ten ‘dangerous celebrities’:

  1. Cameron Diaz – with a risk of one in ten searches that will reslut in malware dowloads.
  2. Julia Roberts – 9% risk.
  3. Jessica Biel – 9%. This is a huge climbdown from last year’s list, which she topped with a 50% risk.
  4. Gisele Bundchen – 15%
  5. Brad Pitt
  6. Adriana Lima
  7. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nicole Kidman
  8. Tom Cruise
  9. Heidi Klum, Penelope Cruz
  10. Anna Paquin
Interestingly, some hot searches like Justin Bieber, Barack Obama and Hanna Montana are not so dangerous, even though their names generate a lot of search traffic.

McAfee of course advises users to install their antivirus programmes. You can read the full list, details of the study and McAfee’s recommendations at the McAfee Newsroom

We recommend something the Pope might approve of — abstention. Why not search for Nirupama Roy, Achala Sachdev or Lalita Pawar instead?

*When I started writing this, Jessica Biel was the most dangerous. Then McAfee released a new list demoting her in favour of Cameron Diaz. What pace at which to get out-dated!
** It’s also amazing how much of this report is boilerplate, I’ve had to change little from the original.

About ozymandias

What am I? A body and brain, products of carbon concatenation chemistry, an intelligence and conscience to enable bits of DNA evolve. Maybe a pharaoh, maybe a dung-beetle, never more than a safe conduit for some genes.
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