Who is the world’s most dangerous footballer?

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo just barely edges out Argentina’s Lionel Messi as the world’s riskiest football player to search for online. According to research from McAfee, part of Intel Security, the rivalry between the world’s top two players has followed them to the McAfee Red Card Club, a brotherhood of eleven Brazil-bound players whose web pages present the greatest threat of infecting site visitors with malware.

Notably the top 11 riskiest footballers, lacks an English contender. Wayne Rooney found himself at number 15, while Joe Hart, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, were in safer territory at numbers 23-25 respectively.

As is common with other cultural sensations, cybercriminals leverage consumer interest in the world’s most popular sport to lure them to websites rigged with malware, malicious code capable of infecting a user’s machine and stealing passwords and personal information. Researchers have used McAfee SiteAdvisor site ratings to determine which sites are risky to search when coupled with footballer names, calculating an overall risk percentage.

According to the research, fans run the greatest risk when visiting sites offering screensaver downloads and videos showcasing the extraordinary skills of the players. Searching for the latest Cristiano Ronaldo content yields a chance of landing on a website that has tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware. English footballers therefore seem not to appeal to cybercriminals as much as the more successful footballing nations.

Players make the McAfee Red Card Club by scoring among the top eleven positions in terms of greatest chance of webpage risk:

“Consider the McAfee Red Card Club as our effort to warn consumers against allowing passion to trump digital hygiene,” said Raj Samani, EMEA CTO, McAfee, part of Intel Security. “Cybercriminals can’t resist taking advantage of “fever-pitch’ excitement around this summer’s epic matchups in Brazil. The danger is that this anticipation could lead fans to download content from pages they shouldn’t to fulfill their football experience.”

Tips to stay protected

To avoid the summertime blues of becoming infected during the Brazil games and beyond, fans should follow a set of basic tips to protect themselves wherever their love of the game may take them:

  • Beware of content that prompts you to download anything before providing you the content. Consider watching streaming videos or downloading content from official websites of content providers.
  • “Free downloads” are the highest virus-prone search term. Anyone searching for videos or files to download should be careful to not unleash malware on their computer.
  • Always use password protection on your phone and other mobile devices. If your phone is lost or stolen, anyone who picks up the device could publish your information online.
  • Established news sites may not entice you with exclusives for one solid reason: there usually aren’t any. Try to stick to official news sites that you trust for breaking news. However, trusted sites can also fall prey to hackers. Make sure to use a safe search tool that will notify you of risky sites or links before you visit them.
  • Don’t download videos from suspect sites. This should be common sense, but it bears repeating: don’t download anything from a website you don’t trust — especially videos. Most news clips you’d want to see can easily be found on official video sites, and don’t require you to download. If a website offers an exclusive video for you to download, don’t.
  • Don’t “log in” or provide other information: If you receive a message, text or email or visit a third-party website that asks for your information—credit card, email, home address, Facebook login, or other information—for access to an exclusive story, don’t give it out. Such requests are a common tactic for phishing that could lead to identity theft.
  • If you do decide to search for information on a major event or celebrity in the news, make sure your entire household’s devices have protection.
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