If you're seeking out Superman online, be on alert. A new study by Internet security firm McAfee shows that those who search for the Man of Steel on the Web have a 16.5 percent chance that they'll land on a website that has malware including spyware, adware, spam, phishing or viruses.
The data is part of McAfee's second annual Most Toxic Superheroes list, which calculated an overall risk percentage of traversing a troubling site when using a search term that contained a superhero's name. Thor came in second (16.35 percent), while Wonder Woman and Aquaman (15.7 percent each) tied for third.
McAfee chief consumer security evangelist Gary Davis postulated that these comic book characters often draw online malfeasance because they appeal to a younger audience that might not be as discerning when it comes to clicking on questionable links.
And, online fraudsters link to timely mainstream topics in order to make sure their content will be visited. With Superman Vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice coming out in 2016 and publicity for the movie already ramping up, Davis believes it may have propelled the DC Comics hero to the top of the charts. (Batman came in sixth with a 14.20 percent of landing on a site with malware.)
"Logic would suggest those who try to do malicious deeds will typically try to tie it to a popular term," he explained.
McAfee suggested being extra cautious on clicking on ad links that offer free content or deals that seem to be too much of a bargain. Make sure that website addresses are spelled correctly before going to them. Davis added that regularly updating system patches or security updates on your PC or Mac could help fix any vulnerabilities, and he lauded the benefits of anti-malware products.
The company also advised not watching content on sites that require downloads before viewing the video, and sticking to tried-and-true streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu. The most virus-ridden sites were linked to "free download"-related search terms.
"There's no bound to what somebody is going to try and load up on a malicious website," Davis commented.