Photo of a hacker
Cybercriminals are popping up when people Google celebrities. CC by Geek and Poke

Beware of Cameron Diaz. The new McAfee “Most Dangerous Celebrities” release puts her at the top of the list. Distributors of malicious content often trick web users into downloading malware by masking the code behind screensavers and photos of famous stars. The Most Dangerous Celebrities list is updated annually with the names cybercriminals use the most.

Malware spreads with Most Dangerous Celebrities

The fourth annual Most Dangerous Celebrities list was created by McAfee to promote SiteAdvisor, a free program that tests websites for malicious content. As reported by MSNBC, SiteAdvisor is the tool McAfee uses to single out celebrity downloads of videos, photos or wallpaper that carry the highest degree of risk. When searching for Cameron Diaz photos and downloads, web users take a 10 percent chance of landing on a site that has tested positive for malware, which could lead to consequences from degraded PC performance to identity theft.

Cybercriminals use celebrities as bait

Cybercriminals track the hottest topics on the web to use as bait. ABC News reports that malicious hackers use the most popular celebrities to trick their fans into downloading what appears as harmless content that actually hides stealth programs written to hijack passwords and sensitive personal information. The tactic isn’t a recent innovation, but Dave Marcus, McAfee Labs’ director of security research, told ABC News that the spread of malicious downloads is increasing at an accelerated pace. McAfee tracked more malware from April through June than ever before. The presence of 6 million original pieces of malware — about 60,000 a day — were exposed by McAfee in that time frame.

Beauty only skin deep in downloads

The Most Dangerous Celebrities list usually includes movie stars and models at the top of the rankings. A CNET report on the phenomenon noted that malware showed up in 19 percent of the sites found when SiteAdvisor searched “Cameron Diaz and screensavers.” Other actors dominated the top 10. Julia Roberts had to settle for second place. Jessica Biel got knocked down a few pegs from last year to number three. Another familiar face (and body) was fourth. Gisele Bundchen is not only the world’s richest supermodel, she’s also the most dangerous. Brad Pitt moved up five spots from last year to rank fifth. Politicians don’t have the same allure. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were ranked 49 and 50, respectively.

McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrities

1. Cameron Diaz

2. Julia Roberts

3. Jessica Biel

4. Gisele Bündchen

5. Brad Pitt

6. Adriana Lima

7. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Nicole Kidman: tie

8. Tom Cruise

9. Heidi Klum and Penelope Cruz: tie

10. Anna Paquin

Additional reading


ABC News:


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