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June 05, 2009

Top Ten Most Dangerous Web Searches Risking Identity Theft

ABC news recently had an interesting article I just stumbled across regarding the "Top Ten Most Dangerous Web Searches", i.e. the web search terms most used by online hackers to install malicious code to steal your personal information and/or your identity.

According to the article "security firm McAfee, Inc. revealed how cybercriminals use popular search terms to unleash malicious software that can infect a computer and, in some cases, steal a user's identity. McAfee researchers analyzed more than 2,600 of the most popular search terms of 2008 from a range of sources, including the Google Zeitgeist and the Yahoo! 2008 Year in Review."

Some of the top ten most dangerous search terms are not that surprising, like "MySpace" (number 3) or "Free Music Downloads" (number 4) and "Free Music" (number 6). Others are a bit more intriguing, such as "Phelps, Weber-Gale, Jones and Lezak Wins 4x 100m Relay" (number 5) and "Word Unscrambler" (number 1).

The article also states that "'Search engines are our on-ramp, our highway and our off-ramp -- they're everything for Web travel," said Shane Keats, the research analyst with McAfee who led the study. 'The hacking community is very smart -- they can spot a trend as well as any trendspotter.' Just as pickpockets know they'll have the best odds of snatching a wallet on a busy city sidewalk, Internet thieves know they'll have the most luck by targeting crowds."

The article goes on to state "After analyzing the search terms, Keats and his team found that not only are hackers looking for crowds, they are also attacking Internet surfers who are ready to take an online action, like downloading a ringtone or logging in to a site with a name, address and social security number."

For the full article, see

Oddly enough, in my nearly ten years representing identity theft victims as an attorney and my seven years experience before that as a law clerk/paralegal working on identity theft cases, I have never had a client come to me thinking that their identity was stolen over the internet. The culprit is most often a family member or close friend with access to the client's personal identifiers. Sad, but true.

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