Celeb Searches: Most Dangerous Names on the Web

'Cybercriminals are star watchers too,' says software maker McAfee

August 25, 2009, 10:51 AM

Aug. 25, 2009 — -- What's the matter with Jessica Biel? McAfee, the anti-virus software maker, is out with its third annual list of the most dangerous names to search on the web, and reports that if you Google "Jessica Biel screensavers" (or Yahoo or Bing it), almost half the downloads you could click on will try to deposit malware (viruses, pop-up ads, spyware, etc.) in your computer.

Here is McAfee's list of the "Riskiest Celebrities to Search on the Web":

1. Jessica Biel

2. Beyonce

3. Jennifer Aniston

4. Tom Brady

5. Jessica Simpson

6. Gisele Bundchen

7. Miley Cyrus

8. Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie (tie)

9. Ashley Tisdale

10. Brad Pitt (he was first last year)

11. Reese Witherspoon

12. Britney Spears

13. Rihanna

14. Lindsay Lohan

15. Kim Kardashian

"Cybercriminals are star watchers too -- they latch onto popular celebrities to encourage the download of malicious software in disguise," said Jeff Green, a McAfee senior vice president, in a press 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 says it compiled the rankings using software it makes called SiteAdvisor. There is a version you can download for free, which warns how risky a site is before you click on it.

This comes with the standard disclaimer that McAfee is in the business of selling software to protect your machine from such crises. Their virus-scan programs start at $29.99. They add that Windows computers are not the only vulnerable ones; users of Apple, Linux and others get hit too.

There are many competitors, of course, and some of the best don't charge anything for their most basic versions. Norton, AVG, Kaspersky and F-Secure are among the most popular.

In June, McAfee went through the top 2,600 search terms from Google, Yahoo and elsewhere, and came out with an overall list of riskiest searches -- celebrities need not apply. It was a very different list:

1. Word Unscrambler

2. Lyrics

3. MySpace

4. Free Music Downloads

5. Phelps, Weber-Gale, Jones and Lezak Wins 4x 100m Relay

6. Free Music

7. Game Cheats

8. Printable Fill in Puzzles

9. Free Ringtones

10. Solitaire

The Most Dangerous Names on the Web

One thing that unifies these terms is that many of them lead you to downloadable files. Looking at any Web site means your computer will download something (the picture of Ms. Biel with this story, for instance), but larger files mean more room for malware.

Computer security people say the actual search is not what's risky; that plain-vanilla list of links you see if you Google something is pretty harmless. Clicking through to an actual site is where you court trouble.

What names are safe to search? Obviously, you do better if you're not looking for people in the headlines. But McAfee claims Barack Obama was only 34th on its new list, and Michele Obama was 39th.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events