Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: Superhero Searches Pose Online Risks

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… going to crash your computer?

Little did Batman know the search for him across the World Wide Web almost singlehandedly brought down several of his fans’ computers. Across town in her invisible jet, Wonder Woman had no clue that in searching her out, fans’ computers were getting infected with viruses and malware, causing irreparable damages.

Yes folks, our beloved superheroes—the masked crusaders of fiction, working to defend the innocent against tyranny and disaster—have been found on occasion to be the bane of online searches.

The Internet provides any comic buff access to almost unlimited comic resources (digital graphic novels, video, quotes, images, and downloads). And with the popularity of superhero justice in film (with blockbusters such as The Avengers, Batman Begins, and Iron Man) and other media (online gaming, digital graphic novels, mobile games), hackers are now targeting fans through their love of the heroic???

A recent internal study found that a number of the most revered characters in sci-fi are being used to target unsuspecting fans. The recently released report on the Most Toxic Superheroes looked at what “super” searches resulted in the greatest number of risky websites popping up.

The study referenced McAfee® SiteAdvisor® site ratings that calculate overall risk percentages from various factors online, and confirmed that hackers and online scammers use popular trends to target victims through their personal interests. Celebrities, film, deals and other entertainment topics all put consumers at risk. And online, where geekdom rules, content around comic book characters produces some of the highest traffic on the web.

They’re using our heroes against us. Who took first place as the most “toxic superhero” on the web?

None other than the king of the seven seas, Aquaman. Researchers found that those searching for the latest “Aquaman download,” “Aquaman online,” or “Aquaman free trailer” and other similar Aquaman-focused inquiries stood an 18.6% chance of arriving on a website known for harboring spyware, spam, phishing scams, viruses and other malware.

What other heroes made the list of the not-so-super-Super-Friends? Here’s what our research found the highest risk superhero searches to be:

Aquaman 18.60%
Mr. Fantastic 18.22%
The Hulk 17.30%
Wonder Woman 16.77%
Daredevil 16.70%
Iron Man 15.63%
Superman 15.21%
Thor 15.10%
Green Lantern 15.00%
Cyclops 14.40%
Wolverine 14.27%
Invisible Woman 12.40%
Batman 12.30%
Captain America 11.77%
Spider-Man 11.15%

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Double check the URL of any pages you are about to visit, especially when on unknown websites or using third-party apps.
  • Be cautious of social media messages that include suspicious and/or shortened links. Before you click, verify if the message is indeed from the site it claims to originate from.
  • Keep your computer or device up to date with the latest updates and security patches.
  • Avoid clicking on unknown links to sites or apps that offer product or offers for almost nothing more than a click of a link.
  • Check for poor spelling and other clues that the site that comes up in your search is less than safe. Just like the Super Friends do.
  • Use comprehensive security software that uses a password manager to simplify and automate your logins, such as McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which— protects all your devices, your identity and your data.

For more on the subject, join in the discussion on Twitter with the tag #toxicsuperhero. Stay on top of the latest consumer threats and online safety tips. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @McAfeeConsumer and Facebook.


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