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How Googling Cameron Diaz can mess up your computer

Searching for Cameron Diaz online carries a one-in-ten chance of landing on a website containing with malicious software, according to a report by the computer security firm McAfee.

By Adam HadhazyStaff Writer / August 20, 2010

One in ten websites containing the phrase 'Cameron Diaz' contain malicious software intended to infect computers and steal data from users, according to research released Thursday by McAfee

Sergio Moraes/Reuters/File

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Searching for Cameron Diaz online carries a one-in-ten chance of landing on a website festering with malicious software that can infect your computer, according to security tech company McAfee.

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Diaz topped this year's list of McAfee's Most Dangerous Celebrities, knocking last year's riskiest search bait Jessica Biel down to number three. (Both stars have coincidentally dated Justin Timberlake, who did not make this year's list.)

Crafty cybercriminals infuse some of the internet's most popular searches such as movie stars, musicians, athletes and politicians, with malicious software, or "malware." These unsavory programs include spyware, adware, computer viruses, email spam and phishing scams.

McAfee has published the list four years in a row now to boost sales of its SiteAdvisor program that vets websites for malware and performs other online security pat-downs.

"This year, the search results for celebrities are safer than they've been in previous years, but there are still dangers when searching online," said Dave Marcus, security researcher for McAfee Labs in a statement.

Hot and contagious

Since cybercriminals want to place their traps where people will digitally wander, celebrities are an easy target.

Unsurprisingly, attractive females dominate the top ten of McAfee's list, including three Victoria's Secret models: Gisele Bundchen (fourth), Adriana Lima (sixth) and Heidi Klum (tied for ninth).

Alpha dogs Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise break into the ten most dangerous celebrity searches – fifth and eighth, respectively – the only males to carry this dubious honor.

Athletes often carry digital diseases too, at least online. Tiger Woods, no stranger himself to risky behavior, only comes in at number 33, however, with the most plague-ridden athletes sought online being two tennis stars, Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick, who rank thirteenth and fourteenth. Waning soccer stud David Beckham scored twenty-ninth this year.

Young musical artists and YouTube sensations Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber came in towards the bottom at the number 37 and 46 spots, and Miley Cyrus checked in at 44.

The safest of the unsafe celebrities were politicos Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, rounding out the top fifty at forty-ninth and fiftieth, respectively.

How it works

McAfee bases the list's rankings on its SiteAdvisor product that alerts users to a website's general cleanliness in regards to malware. The program color-codes websites in search results with red, yellow or green icons.

It also checks the safety of links in emails and instant messengers and will block a website deemed disease-ridden.

The software works in various browsers and when purchased as a standalone service it sells for $20.

In other McAfee news today, microchip giant Intel announced a purchase of the company for $7.68 billion.

Online security continues to heat up, with some security experts warning that the "viruses are winning" and that internet passwords must be at least 12 characters long to be safe.

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