Googling Emma Watson? Be Careful.
A McAfee internet security study released today has said that Emma Watson is currently the "riskiest" person to search for online. What they mean by this is that search results for the British actress have been heavily populated with malicious links, leading users to malware and viruses.
Back in May last year I wrote about how the real power of the computer virus is not in its sophisticated technological make-up, but in its presentation since that is how it is able to sneak past our guard and onto our computer systems.
Some of the most virulent pieces of code have not been all that clever in themselves, but they have taken people by surprise since they have come packaged as attractive content which a user can barely resist clicking on. From nude snapshots of celebrities to promises of a way to lose weight quickly, viruses get inside our computers first and foremost by getting inside our heads.
What's interesting about the McAfee study is that it sets itself up as a sort of barometer for how creators of malware are latching on to certain kinds of popular Google queries. Notice I said "certain kinds". The 50 most popular Google queries probably do not mirror so well the top 50 most risk-laden search terms.
Why? Well, malware seems to be most successful when it is hidden behind promises of nude photographs, salacious gossip and pirated media. As McAfee noted: "Fans searching for 'Emma Watson and free downloads,' 'Emma Watson and nude pictures,' 'Emma Watson and fakes,' and 'Emma Watson and busted' are at risk of running into online threats designed to steal personal information."
All but one of McAfee's top 50 are female. Several are Latino. All are attractive. McAfee also said that recent coverage in news headlines had little to do with the appearance of a celebrity in their list.
This situation presents to us an Emma Watson which is nothing more than a secret threat. A "fem-bot" or "replicant" which schmoozes its way into our apartment before snapping us like a twig and picking up our wallet from the kitchen counter.
Unless it has already been attempted, perhaps a study ought to be conducted to find out the characteristics of typical "patient zeroes" who transmit malware. Does the spread start with men? Perhaps white, middle-class, sexually active men between the ages of 20 and 45?
And do these kinds of users throw caution to the wind more frequently than others when searching?
Whether or not we can tie the proliferation of computer viruses to the horny, white middle-classes, the results of McAfee's survey remain fascinating since they prove the simple and shallow tactics of malware creators remain wildly successful.
As I said before, the way viruses are packaged and transmitted is very culturally revealing and exposes our own weaknesses in a way which leaves our computers, armed to the hilt with anti-virus software though they may be, somewhat vulnerable.
- Terrified Together: The Online Cult of Slender Man
- How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors “Skeuomorphs” and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess
- "The Wheel of the Devil": On Vine, gifs and the power of the loop
- Facebook, the Projected Self and Narcissism
- Self-Sacrifice in the Age of the Gadget
- The Quality of Offline and Online Friendships
- The Interface and Hyperreality
- Quite a speculative report and clearly biased against independence, but some interesting questions are raised.
53 minutes ago.
- For military fans: A paper on the ramifications for UK / Scottish defence in the wake of Scottish independence http://t.co/TQ9K8mUkfS
54 minutes ago.
- Researchers study the humble ant in bid to build better search and rescue robots: http://t.co/gTAkZpQoAJ
1 hour ago.
Interfaces express not that a journey has been eliminated, but that a new one may be created.
Networking, in many senses, gives rise to a new perspective on the London Riots of 2011.
Does abstinence from the web ever last? Is it even a good idea?
Computer viruses are not just computer viruses. They spread in pathological as well as technological ways.