Former Harry Potter starlet Emma Watson has been dubbed the “most dangerous celebrity” by Internet security firm McAfee. The announcement came as part of McAfee’s yearly roundup of celebrity search terms that have a greater percentage of malicious links associated with them in search engines.
Cybercriminals are clever. If a certain celebrity or search term is gaining traction in pop culture, it isn’t difficult to build a site and have it listed under those terms with some malicious scripting baked in, ready to be sprung on any unsuspecting celebrity gossip fan.
Paula Greve, director of Web security research at McAfee noted in the company’s official report:
“In today’s celebrity culture, consumers expect to be able to go online to catch up with the latest photos, videos, tweets, and stories about their favorite celebrities. Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, often times consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links.”
Just how bad are your chances of stumbling across a malicious site when looking for news and information about Emma Watson? McAfee reports one out of every eight. That’s a substantial risk.
So how do you protect yourself from falling victim to these malicious sites? Here are some tips.
- Stick to sites you know and trust. If you don’t recognize the URL, don’t click.
- Avoid search results that look too good to be true.
- Alluring keywords like “nude” or “sex tape” are especially risky. Keep it clean.
Cybercriminals are counting on the average user to throw caution to the wind in the face of controversial information surrounding their favorite celebrities. It’s that natural draw of drama and controversy that makes celebrity magazines such a big-selling item at checkout lanes. If you absolutely must get your fix of celebrity gossip, stick to news sources you know and trust.
With practically every day being filled with some new celebrity scandal, this genre of information provides rich ammunition for malicious developers to use against the public. You may discover that your browser’s home screen has changed, unwanted plugins are installed, and the default search engine has been reset before you even know it.
Perhaps the most important rule to defending yourself from this type of issue is to be careful. The Internet is a mine field, and you never know when you might take the wrong step.
Photo: David Shankbone