Searching certain celebrities' names online can put you even more at risk of falling prey to cybercriminals.
Is this the real Avril? [Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images for MTV]
Think of a celebrity you're curious about right now. You pull up a search engine, type in the celebrity's name into the search box, and click on one or more of the results to find the information you're looking for. Maybe you want to know who they're dating, if there's any truth to their latest scandal, or if they actually died in 2003 and has been replaced by a double called Melissa.
That last one is an actual rumor about Canadian pop rocker Avril Lavigne, who has been laying low since 2014 due to her battle with Lyme disease. Lavigne is also the most dangerous celebrity to search online this year, according to cybersecurity company McAfee. Searching Lavigne, as well as a number of other celebrities, increases the chances of you stumbling upon malware and dangerous websites.
2017's top 10 most dagnerous celebrities [Graphic by McAfee]
Every year for the past 11 years, McAfee has been publishing its Most Dangerous Celebrities list. This year, Lavigne tops the list. Other celebrities like Amy Schumer and Emma Watson have also topped the list in previous years. Bruno Mars and Carly Rae Jepsen follow Lavigne on this year's list in the number two and three spots respectively. Other celebrities like Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Zayn Malik are also among this year's top ten. In the UK, meanwhile, Craig David holds the distinction of the most dangerous celebrity to search online for.
“We surf the internet to find the latest celebrity gossip, discover a new song, and even interact with our favorite stars,” McAfee's Gary Davis writes in a blog post. “And cybercriminals know that. In fact, they’re capitalizing on that by weaving in sneaky cyberthreats within celebrity sites.”
Lavigne made her way to the top of this year's list due to that outlandish rumor that she has been replaced by a double. Now, generally, if you search for weird things, you're bound to get led to weird sites. Also, Lavigne announced last year that she was working on a new album that's set for release at the end of this year. Thus, there has been more interest on the singer than usual.
Be careful what you search for
Weird things aren't the only ones that you should be wary of. You should also be wary of free things. Interest in Lavigne's new music—as well as that of other artists—has led to searches for “free mp3”. Searches like this are responsible for about 40% of risky websites. “Free torrent” is responsible for 36% of these websites, while “free mp4” is responsible for 24%.
Cybercriminals know what people are interested in. Thus, free stuff and gossip are basically the bait. Once we bite, cybercriminals reel us in and bring us to malicious websites that can infect our computers with malware.
So what do you do to make sure you don't fall into the trap around the most dangerous celebrity on the internet? For one thing, avoid looking for pirated content. Another is to wait for official information on things like album releases instead of going to sketchy sites that aren't even guaranteed to be truthful. The last, meanwhile, is to always browse the internet with security protection.
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