MSNBC (August 25, 2009)
"So you want to be more in the loop about celebrity news than TMZ, and you can't resist the urge to click on the latest gossip about Jessica Biel's fill-in-the-blank...
"...You're not alone, but you are at risk. Biel is considered 'the most dangerous celebrity to search in cyberspace,' according to security firm McAfee, giving the movie star top billing as 'the riskiest' search.
" 'Fans searching for "Jessica Biel" or ... have a one in five chance of landing at a Web site that's tested positive for online threats such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware,' or malicious software, McAfee said in a press release...."
A bit farther down, the article points out that it isn't the search that could hurt you: it's visiting that cool-looking website you find in the search.
Yes, McAfee would like you to buy their anti-malware software. It's pretty good, by the way: I'm no longer using it, but you could do a lot worse. The article mentions a freebie offered by McAfee, SiteAdvisor.
The article doesn't say it quite this way, but the idea is: Think, THEN click. Some websites load - or try to load - malicious software along with what you see, and unwanted code may be in that nifty screensaver or ringtone you feel like downloading. "...More than 40 percent of Google search results for 'Jennifer Aniston screensavers' had 'nasty viruses, including one called the "FunLove virus." '..."
As the article's headline says, Jessica Biel is #1 on the list. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 in the list are Beyoncé, Jennifer Aniston and Tom Brady. The article lists quite a few others in the most-dangerous category.
Bottom line about the article: It does a pretty good job of discussing the current state of a perennial problem on the Internet. And does it in a clear, non-technical way.
I take online security seriously, since this computer is a critical tool in my work. Even so, I had a major problem with malware earlier this year. I was preparing a cybernetic 'nuclear option' when my oldest daughter and son - 26 and 13 years old, and both tech-savvy - rooted out the last of the malware. (April 13, 2009)
I've changed some of my online habits since then - and pay much closer attention whether or not a site I'm visiting is legitimate. The "whois" service offered free by quite a few hosting companies is handy.
I check, fairly often, to see if the URL I'm interested in is registered to someone or some organization that appears to be connected to the website's purported content. If it's not - or if the registrant is one of those services that let a person register anonymously - I'm not likely to take my browser there: no more than I'd follow someone wearing a mask into an alley.
Generally, in a post like this, I compare the current situation on the Internet to the American frontier days - what we call the 'wild west.' Instead of trying to come up with something fresh on that subject, here's a list of posts that compare today's cyberspace and the wild west:
- "Georgia, Cymxymu, Russian Hackers, and the Twitter Troubles"
(August 9, 2009)
- "Twitter Troubles: Denial-of-Service Attack"
(August 6, 2009)
- "Megan Meier's Tormentor: Knowledge is Power"
(December 6, 2007)
- "Copy, Steal, Rob, Whatever: Another Violation of Intellectual Property Rights"
(August 3, 2007)
- "Rogue Hosting Company and Server Shut Down: Oddly Enough, I Approve"
(June 5, 2009)
- "Searching for 'Work From Home,' 'Free Games,' or 'Screensavers' ? You Might Find Trouble"
(May 28, 2009)
- "Lemming Tracks: Caught up After a Perfect Storm of Malware and Easter Weekend"
(April 13, 2009)
- "Google Blacklists Internet - By Mistake"
(February 1, 2009)
- "AVG and Linkscanner: Sounds as if Anti-Malware Software Acts Like Malware"
(June 15, 2008)
- Note the date: I use AVG software now
- Quite a lot can happen in a year
- "Non-Running Un-Program Wins 16 Software Awards"
(March 24, 2008)
- "'Just When You Thought it was Safe to Plug in Your iPod...' "
(March 17, 2008)
- "NanoScan: Another Fast Online Anti-Virus Scanner"
(March 15, 2008)
Edited August 26, 2009