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When Heroes Go Bad: These Super Cybervillains Spread The Most Viruses

These superheroes are most likely to expose you to malicious malware. Guess who’s number one?

When Heroes Go Bad: These Super Cybervillains Spread The Most Viruses
[Illustrations by Bill Sienkiewicz]

So much for that clean-cut image. The Man of Steel is the superhero most likely to give you a virus.

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Fans gearing up for San Diego Comic Con and the upcoming onslaught of superhero blockbusters are easy marks for cybervillains waiting to steal their identities. So Internet security firm McAfee has released its second annual Most Toxic Superheroes list of the superhero searches most likely to expose users to malicious software designed to snatch passwords and personal information.

Black Widow

Superman came in at number 1. “We thought that Batman would have come in much higher, given the buzz around the Superman vs. Batman movie (whose teaser is rumored to be unveiled at SDCC) and Batman’s 75th anniversary this year,” says McAfee online security expert Robert Siciliano.

Another notable point was the entrance of two female superheroes–Wonder Woman and Black Widow–in the top 10. Siciliano believes Disney’s recent output of strong female characters–a la Brave and Frozen–has girls more interested in their comic counterparts. “I’m pleased to see the female superheroes showing up in the Top 10–not that their sites are getting linked to viruses, but that it signifies they’re getting their due as far as popularity,” he adds.

McAfee compiled the list after spending last month running SiteAdvisor–its virus-alerting software users can download for free—while matching top search terms with superheroes to see which encountered viruses. “Now that studios are managing the brands of their characters in the same way as their celebrities, they’re getting much more attention from criminals,” Siciliano. “The Internet’s pulled that together.”

Here are the top 10 villainous superheroes for online surfers this year (% indicates the chance of landing on a website that has tested positive for online threats such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses or other malware):

  1. Superman, 16.50%
  2. Thor, 16.35%
  3. Wonder Woman + Aquaman (tie), 15.70%
  4. Wolverine, 15.10%
  5. Spiderman, 14.70%
  6. Batman, 14.20%
  7. Black Widow, 13.85%
  8. Captain America, 13.50%
  9. Green Lantern, 11.25%
  10. Ghost Rider, 10.83%

Catch more of Siciliano’s comments on the McAfee blog.

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.

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