Celebrity searches are source for malware downloads

September 11, 2012

Fans of the Harry Potter franchise should be more careful when searching their favorite wizard on the internet.

According to the sixth annual "Most Dangerous Celebrity" list, Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger, has been crowned as the riskiest celebrity name for search queries. Fans of the star who search for photographs or videos of Watson are more likely to encounter malicious malware, spam, viruses or phishing attempts intended to steal personal information. There is a one in eight chance that fans searching for Watson will land on a malicious site.

Phishing attempts rise
For the first time in the past four years, the number of malware threats has hit an all time high. From McAfee Labs data, 1.5 million attacks were detected on computers in the second quarter of 2012.

Although the number of malicious emails and cyber attacks has increased, many users cannot recognize when their computer has been targeted. O+K Research recently released the results of a survey commissioned by Kaspersky Lab that shows 50 percent of respondents could not distinguish a fake website or phishing attempt, while 26 percent said they accidentally released malware by opening a suspicious attachment.

Security measures for computer users
Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee, said that the public should be aware of risky sites associated with celebrities, and that movies, TV shows and awards play a factor in how "dangerous" a celebrity search can be.

Computer users should be cautious when opening suspicious attachments or clicking questionable links. Consumers should invest in security or antivirus software as a form of network security to stay protected.

Fans of Watson should also take caution when looking at photographs or links of her on their mobile devices. According to the O+K Research survey, hackers target mobile users with phishing attempts as another way of accessing personal information.

Watson leads the list, which features all women. Other celebrities that could lead to malware downloads include Jessica Biel, Eva Mendes, Selena Gomez, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Shakira, Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara. The only male celebrity in the top 20 is late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

-McAfee Cloud Security