Who Was Who in Spam for 2009

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McAfee Labs on Monday unveiled its rankings of the Top 25 men and women listed in the subject lines of spam e-mails in 2009 with President Obama coming in atop the less-than-desirable list.

Spammers and phishers have and always will use celebrities and breaking news events to promulgate their annoying and increasingly destructive malware.

President Obama checked in as the most common spam subject last year, beating out the likes of Michael Jackson (No. 2 among men), former President George W. Bush (No. 3), actor Brad Pitt (No. 4) and musician Eminem (No. 5).

Rounding out McAfee's (NYSE: MFE) Top 10 among men in spam subject lines were Warren Buffett (No. 6), Chuck Norris (No. 7), Don Juan (No. 8), Elton John (No. 9) and Sacha Baron Cohen (No. 10).

Others worth noting were Pope Benedict XVI (No. 11), Elvis Presley (No. 12), Mike Tyson (No. 16) and American Idol judge Simon Cowell barely made the cut at No. 25.

Among women in subject lines, spammers, fishers and would-be hackers thought Internet users would be most likely to click on a link with actress Angelina Jolie's name attached to it. In fact, only President Obama was found in more subject lines than Mrs. Brad Pitt, according to McAfee's January 2010 Spam Report.

"Bottom line, it looks like you have to be President to be a more popular spam target than Angelina," the report's authors said. "Sorry, guys."

Oprah Winfrey checked in at No. 2 followed by Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus.

The rest of the fairer sex's Top 10 included pop musician Rihanna, songstress Avril Lavigne (No. 7), Madonna (No. 8), actress Scarlett Johansson (No. 9), and Jessica Simpson (No. 10).

"Spammers are fond of using celebrities in their mails to attract our attention," McAfee officials said. "They know we'll frequently take the bait."

Others worth noting included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (No. 13), musician Lady Gaga at No. 19, and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (No. 21).

While the list of pop culture and political elite might be interesting, security experts say the proliferation of socially engineered malware will continue to plague enterprises and individual Internet users for the foreseeable future.

According to security researchers at PandaLabs, the amount of malware in circulation in the coming year will grow "exponentially" as malware purveyors ratchet up their focus on new Trojans, phishing scams, and fake anti-virus strains designed exclusively to usurp personal banking information to fleece unsuspecting Internet users.

Mobile devices, including the Apple iPhone and Google's Nexus One, will provide another fertile field for exploitation by cyber crooks looking for a quick score as users infatuated with real-time correspondence via social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, let down their guard in the name of immediacy and interactivity.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the internet.com network.