By Amy Ryan
August 10, 2007 at 02:00 PM EDT
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Disney’s squeaky-clean tween queen may be helping your kids download porn or worse. The virus and spyware experts at McAfee did some research to find the pop-culture search-engine queries whose results are most likely to lead unwitting users to the most infectious pages, and they found, for instance, that the most dangerous search query among currently popular songs is for “Life’s What You Make It” by Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus, pictured.) Kids who type that into their search engine in the hope of finding downloadable music, photos, and ringtones are most likely to wind up infecting their PCs with redirects to porn sites or data-stealing spyware that enables identity theft.

McAfee research analyst Shane Keats tells PopWatch that scammers closely follow popular culture in order to target kids and other naive and inexperienced Web surfers. “When they first get to an offer for a Hannah Montana screensaver, they just click yes. Three or four clicks later, they’ve got a single image of Hannah Montana that may or may not be legal, and they’re also going to give themselves porno pop-up ads.” Of the scammers, Keats says, “You’ve really got to wonder how they sleep at night. It’s one thing to do that to a grown-up, another to do it to a kid who just wants to show their love for their favorite singer.” He says he won’t let his own kids, ages 5 and 8, surf the ‘Net. “There’s just too much chance that they’ll see an image that they’ll never forget.”

Other dangerous pop culture searches, Keats says, include rap tracks(Three 6 Mafia attracts some of the worst, he says; guess it’s hard outhere for a datapimp.) Less risky are country acts like Toby Keith, TimMcGraw, or Kenny Chesney (Keats says he doesn’t know why that is, givenhow popular they are) or celebrity couples (such as TomKat, AshtonKutcher and Demi Moore, or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner).

To protect your computer from pop-culture parasites, Keats suggeststhree tips: First, stick with the official sites; it’s safe to visitDisney’s pages if you’re looking for Hannah Montanabilia. Outside ofthe official sites, any free offer that sounds too good to be trueprobably is. Second, among search results, the engine-generated linkstend to be safer than the sponsored links placed there by advertisers.Third, get some good security software; naturally, Keats recommendsMcAfee’s free browser plug-in SiteAdvisor, but he says thecompetition’s products are worthwhile, too. “Otherwise,” Keats says,”it’s like surfing naked.”

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