In virtual world, superheroes turn super-villains

Written by Anirudh Vohra | Updated: Jul 27 2014, 06:41am hrs
A study says searching for superheroes on the Web yields a good chance of landing on a website that has been tested positive for online threats

Noted English author, film director, video game designer and visual artist Clive Barker once said: Superman is, after all, an alien life form. He is simply the acceptable face of invading realities. Well, when it comes to the virtual world, Barker couldnt have been more correct.

As per a new study by McAfee, an American global computer security software company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, on the Most Toxic Superheroes, the Man of Steel tops the list. The study analysis what superhero search on the Net leads to the most risky websites, using the McAfee SiteAdvisor site ratings. As per the study, searching Superman, Superman and free torrent download, Superman and watch, Superman and free app, and Superman and online yields a 16.5% chance of landing on a website that has been tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware.

Welcome to the new era of superheroes. Superman, your perennial role model in the comic world, might be the epitome of courage, justice, and strength, but when it comes online searches, he might also be the biggest threat to you online.

No longer are these just images in a comic books. They are now approachable and larger than life, thanks to computers, gaming consoles, and mobile devices. Superheroes like Captain America, Thor, and Spider-man are omnipresent on the silver screen. The Green Arrow and The Flash have their own television shows. Videos like Batkid and the Spider-man dad went viral on YouTube.

This is not only great news to comic publishers like Marvel and DC, but also to hackers and scammers. Cyber criminals know that search engines (like Google, Yahoo! and Bing) can also be used for criminal means. Therefore, they use popular search terms to draw victims in like celebrity gossip, holidays, viral hits and, yes, superheroes.

The research was based on which superheroes are kryptonite on the Web and result in bad links, including viruses, malware and sites laden with malicious software designed to steal passwords and personal information.