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Spanish anti-virus firm Panda Software has produced a ranking of the famous people most often used to spread viruses on the internet. The listing follows the recent distribution of a Trojan horse malware using spam messages posing as information about a supposed suicide attempt by Michael Jackson.

Exploiting society's fascination with celebrity to trick punters into running malware is a common ruse. Celebrity malware is spread either in viruses attached to infected emails or (increasingly commonly) loaded onto maliciously constructed websites promoted using spam messages. Both these types of attack invariably only target Windows PCs leaving Mac and Linux users untouched. Serious security commentators, such as VMyths, argue that focusing on the use of celebrities is nonsense that has nothing to do with information security.

They're right, of course, but it's still interesting to find out that Britney Spears tops PandaLabs's celebrity virus ranking, as the involuntary protagonist of the numerous virus attacks over the years. Bill Gates comes in as runner-up behind the toxic songstress. Fifth in the list is terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, the frequent subject of malware spreading emails claiming that he has either been hung or captured. Other famous people who have been used in this context include Anna Kournikova, the subject of infamous Kournikova worm, Bill Clinton, Pamela Anderson, and even Alberto Fujimori, the ex-president of Peru. Places in the list are determined by the number of items of malware featuring a celebrity subject.

PandaLab's celebrity virus ranking:

  1. Britney Spears
  2. Bill Gates
  3. Jennifer Lopez
  4. Shakira
  5. Osama Bin Laden
  6. Michael Jackson
  7. Bill Clinton
  8. Anna Kournikova
  9. Paris Hilton
  10. Pamela Anderson

®

Related stories

Bogus Jackson suicide bid claim used to spread malware
Trojan poses as Osama capture pics
The return of the celebrity virus
Bill Clinton virus proves user security sucks
Britney Spears virus fails to chart

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