Free is never free. As Surfshark finds, searching for pirated Robert DeNiro content is a good way to infect your PC with malware. But he's not the only celeb who can get you in trouble.
When you download a song, game, or book, are you keeping it legal? If not, bad actors may take advantage of your need for instant gratification by sliding malware into content you think is safe.
In an analysis of search results for pop culture favorites alongside terms like MP3, torrent, download, or stream, Surfshark finds that the most “dangerous” actor on the internet is none other than American treasure Robert DeNiro. Approximately 54.1% of piracy-related search results for his name included potential malware.
Surfshark started with massive lists of top pop-culture searches across several categories, including actors, musicians, TV shows, movies, songs, sports teams, anime, and books. It then sourced the lists from various places—musical artists were supplied by Billboard, for example.
After conducting searches with the piracy-related terms included, Surfshark ran every URL that came back in the first few pages of Google results through website-security-checker Sucuri. The percentages are the number of URLs that received a “medium risk” rating from the site.
Beyond DeNiro, other actors with dangerous web presences include Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hanks. Kate Winslet at 52.6% is the most dangerous of the female actors, followed by Margot Robbie, Rachel McAdams, and Sandra Bullock. For musicians, Billie Eilish (47.1%) is on top of the list, then The Weeknd, Eminem, and Justin Bieber.
As for video, Pixar’s Finding Dory at 46.7% turns out to be the most malware-ridden movie, Breaking Bad (39.6%) for TV, Yowamushi Pedal (49.7%) for anime, The Lovely Bones (49%) for books, the song “Industry Baby” by Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow is 50.8%; and for games, it’s Mortal Kombat 11 at 46.5%.
You can read the full set of lists in infographic format in Surfshark’s full report, or scroll through the interactive chart below to see all the search terms with the most potential malware.
Remember, you (mostly) don’t need to worry about this stuff if you’re using legal video streaming and music streaming services, or buying (okay, renting) your ebooks from reputable online booksellers and sources. But keep that antivirus software running anyway.
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Eric Griffith has been writing about computers, the internet, and technology professionally for 30 years, more than half of that time with PCMag. He was previously on the founding staff of publications like Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine, all of which are now defunct, and it’s not his fault. He spent six years writing exclusively about Wi-Fi, but don’t ask him to fix your router. At PCMag he runs several special projects including the Readers’ Choice and Business Choice surveys, and yearly coverage of the Fastest ISPs and Best Gaming ISPs, plus regularly writes features on all tech topics. He’s the author of two novels: BETA TEST (“an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale” according to Publishers’ Weekly) and KALI: THE GHOSTING OF SEPULCHER BAY, which you can still get as ebooks. He works from his home in Ithaca, NY, and did it long before pandemics made it cool.
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