Internet searches about Brad Pitt are more likely to lead to infection than web hunts about any other celeb, with 18 per cent of searches leading to sites laced with malware or promoted via spam.
That's according to the SiteAdvisor division of net security firm McAfee, which reports that Pitt has toppled Paris Hilton for the dubious honour of being the flavour of the moment for cybercrooks since a similar SiteAdvisor survey last year. Both Hilton and Britney Spears - prominent in the 2007 edition of the list - are absent this time around.
Cybercrooks often use the monikers of prominent celebrities to lure would-be marks into downloading malware that poses as celebrity themed screensavers, wallpaper, ring tones or other similar tat.
But McAfee's findings have come in for harsh criticism from Paul Ducklin, head of technology for rival Sophos in the Asia Pacific region. He reckons McAfee's stats are a load of nonsense that spread fear and confusion, rather than shedding light on a genuine problem.
"This sort of hyperbole about the dangers of cyberspace may fill column centimetres and attract casual readers, but it doesn’t actually help anyone. For a start, it simply isn’t true. If you go online and search for 'Pitt', you do NOT have a one-in-five chance of getting infected," Ducklin writes.
Ducklin also criticises McAfee for failing to point out that malware-infected websites have a huge variety of themes. "The story seems to imply that if you steer clear of celebrities and stick to 'safer' subjects, you will greatly improve your online health. But SophosLabs finds an average of about 16,000 newly-infected web pages per day, liberally distributed throughout cyberspace," he adds. ®
Most dangerous celebrity searches, according to McAfee SiteAdvisor
- Brad Pitt
- Justin Timberlake
- Heidi Montag
- Mariah Carey
- Jessica Alba
- Lindsay Lohan
- Cameron Diaz
- George Clooney, Rihanna