Who doesn’t love to search for celebrities online? From red carpet photos, to clips of the latest fashion faux pas, Hollywood gossip on the Web has a lot of us hooked. But sometimes, our interest in the stars can lead us into the digital danger zone. Cybercriminals take advantage of our interest in celebrities by riddling search results with links to sites that may host malware and other online threats that can steal personal data and harm our devices.
McAfee conducted a study using McAfee® WebAdvisor to determine the number of risky sites that would be generated in search results including a celebrity name and commonly searched terms. We refer to these stars as the Most Dangerous Celebrities™, meaning that they are likely popular search subjects. And this year’s roundup is seeing some new, surprising faces. Not so surprising is the Netherlands native who’s taken our No. 1 spot, up from his No. 2 placement in 2014: world famous DJ, Armin van Buuren.
So, how dangerous is it exactly to search for the trance music legend? To be precise, searching for van Buuren presents a 17.92% chance of running into online threats — if a user clicked all the results generated by the search terms. That’s nearly a 1 in 5 chance of landing on a site that has ‘malicious’ written all over it.
Other stars that made the cut this year include Luke Bryan (No. 2), Usher (No. 3), and Britney Spears (No. 4). It goes without saying that hackers have picked up on our love of music, with 7 of the top 10 Most Dangerous Celebrities this year being musical artists.
What makes musicians such a focus for cybercriminals? Well, unassuming music fans tend to turn to the Web to find downloads of their favorite tunes—most often in the form of .mp3 files. That said, cybercriminals might use the terms ‘free mp3’ or ‘torrent’ to entice you to download a seemingly-legitimate file that is, in reality, malicious. In the case of our No. 1 Most Dangerous Celebrity, search terms like “HD download “and “torrent” combined with “Armin van Buuren” are hotbeds for hacker hoaxes.
Cybercriminals will continue to innovate, looking for new ways to take advantage of our interest in pop culture to steal personal information. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe:
- Only download from verified sites. Don’t download anything from a website you don’t trust. If it looks suspicious, your hunch about its legitimacy is probably right. Access content directly from reputable sources, such as Apple Music and Google Play Music.
- Be strict when sharing your personal information. If you receive a message from an unknown website asking for your log-in, or requesting other personal information, about face. Cybercriminals often pose as legitimate companies to scoop up your sensitive information via email, text, or other methods of communication. Be wary of these phishing tactics to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Let an online safety advisor be your guide. When it’s hard to tell if a site is legitimate, a web advisor can help. Online tools like McAfee® WebAdvisor can alert you of risky sites before you click, and protect you from threats like malware and browser exploits.
- Use comprehensive security. Whether you follow celebrity gossip or not, it’s always a good idea to protect your devices from potential infection. Comprehensive security solutions like McAfee LiveSafe™ can safeguard your devices by diverting you from dangerous downloads.