Can Malware Help Erin Andrews?
ESPN reporter Erin Andrews got screwed. Bigtime. Nude spy video on the Internet screwed.
But in an ironic twist, malware distribution may play an unexpected role in somewhat lessening the sting of the incident. At least a little.
To anyone who has followed her career as I have as a sports addict, and admittedly not always for her reporting talents alone, the breaking of the peephole video claiming to be Ms. Andrews unclothed, a contention that the ESPN sideline specialist has apparently confirmed, is striking for a number of reasons.
Andrews, the daughter of an Emmy-winning television news reporter, is gorgeous.
There's just no way around it. And like some other very attractive female sports reporters before her, including ESPN colleagues Colleen Dominguez and Sam Ryan, it's almost seemed at some points that she's almost had to work harder and conduct herself a lot more seriously than some of her less eye-catching peers, to downplay her looks a bit, just because... well, it's hard to miss on TV that she's beautiful. And that doesn't always lend credibility. Especially on ESPN.
Seems ridiculous right? But as much as being good looking can help get you onto TV, it can become a major issue if you're a woman covering something and your target audience is, even in this day of worldwide sports mania, still mostly made up of guys.
Especially if you're trying to be taken very seriously as a reporter whilst covering a lot of men's athletics, which undoubtedly she has all around.
There's a certain extra mile than any woman covering men's sports still needs to go to be widely accepted as nothing more than a pretty smile even in this era of near-ubiquitous women's appearances in sports reporting. (How many hotel rooms have I seen Linda Cohn in on a business trip? More than Stuart Scott? Maybe!)
And to anyone who has been watching, Andrews has clearly been running it; doggedly in fact, and for a few years now - covering everything from the NHL playoffs to the National Spelling Bee and almost everything in between.
While she has caught the occasional comment from male counterparts about an outfit or two they saw as too flashy, and become a clearly reluctant frat boy Internet idol, Andrews has appeared only more driven to deflect the pretty girl stamp and build her on-camera credentials.
Off-camera, she's been on the "B.S. Report" podcast with ESPN's "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons and talked this whole issue through at length a couple of times - and actually come off as pretty cool about the whole double-edged sword of it all. Accepting, good humored.
So when some perverted voyeur snuck a tiny camera through her hotel room door, filmed her undressed, then posted it for the world to see on the Web, you had to feel nothing but bad for Ms. Andrews. Here's someone whose been trying pretty hard not to be totally objectified, being reduced to a pornographic download. Humiliating must not even begin to describe it. Technology can be a very dangerous thing.
But at the same time, while information technology and its misuse has surely become the bane of Andrews' existence overnight, in an ironic twist, the move by malware distributors to immediately tap into the certain massive demand for downloads of the peephole video has actually helped put a clamp on people's ability to see it.
I'm not sure how many people who want to view the video will take note, but a good number of the links that they're pulling up promising copies of the download, and the downloads themselves, currently feature malware infections.
A video clip talking about that very phenomenon, produced by Sophos good guy researcher Graham Cluley, is currently one of the top video results that's showing up on Google if you search videos under her name. Many other copies of the video appear to have been pulled from mainstream sharing sites such as YouTube.
Trying to see the thing has certainly become a bit of a crapshoot. Maybe you get to see her; maybe your personal information gets stolen. Is it worth the risk to find out? At least now people have to ask themselves before clicking through.
For those who don't follow the advice and click anyway, and get infected, well, they obviously deserve it, and though it likely doesn't give Ms. Andrews' family must respite, there's a certain street justice aspect to it all.
Uber-hot TV persona gets unauthorized nude pics posted online, but before it gets too far out of the cage the response from malware schemers to capitalize on the torrent of interest in said vid likely slows the very files' propagation.
User driven multimedia content is somehow policed by the very people trying hardest take advantage of it to do wrong.
I think the Internet is about to cave in on itself.
But in this case, that's apparently for the better.
Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.