Mix celebrity status and media presence and you create a magnet for cyber-scammers. McAfee has just released its third annual “Most Dangerous Celebrity in Cyberspace report and it highlights that though the actors of the moment change, the tactics cybercriminals use remain the same.
Jessica Biel now has the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous celebrity to search in cyberspace. Whether fans search for “Jessica Biel” or “Jessica Biel downloads,” “Jessica Biel wallpaper,” “Jessica Biel screen savers,” “Jessica Biel photos” or “Jessica Biel videos”, they have a 20% chance of landing at a Web site containing spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses or other malware.
Somewhat surprisingly, McAfee’s results showed that the U.S. President and First Lady are not among the most risky public figures to search ranking 34th and 39th, respectively.
McAfee’s top riskiest celebrity searches include:
- Jessica Biel – Almost half of “Jessica Biel screensavers” search results contain malicious downloads with spyware, adware and potential viruses.
- Beyoncé – Inputting “Beyoncé ringtones” into a search engine yielded a dangerous Web site linking to a distributor of adware and spyware.
- Jennifer Aniston – More than 40% of the Google search results for “Jennifer Aniston screensavers” contained nasty viruses, including one called the “FunLove virus.”
- Tom Brady – The New England Patriot seems to attract many fans who want a free download of the athlete in action, but not the Trojan that comes with it.
- Jessica Simpson – Searching for “Jessica Simpson videos” can mislead unsuspecting surfers to sites with potentially damaging downloads.
- Gisele Bundchen – A search for “Gisele Bundchen photos” can direct users to sites that breached browser security in McAfee’s tests.
- Miley Cyrus – Web sites related to Miley Cyrus’ image link to harmful sites containing spyware.
- Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie – tied for the number of search results containing risky downloads, proving cybercriminals are in the business of capitalizing on the world’s most famous faces.
- Ashley Tisdale – The “High School Musical” star is a popular search term when it comes to searching for screensavers. A host of screensaver Web sites contained numerous malware-laden downloads.
- Brad Pitt – Brad Pitt fell towards the bottom of this year’s list, resulting in a few less, but just as dangerous, Web sites.
- Reese Witherspoon – Searching for “Reese Witherspoon” and “Reese Witherspoon photos” returns results promoting free files with hidden malware.
- Britney Spears – McAfee SiteAdvisor technology found a single site promoting free Britney Spears wallpaper that was embedded with more than 50 potentially infected downloads.
Don’t play roulette on a search engine
Searching the web without using tools that identify malicious websites is asking for trouble – you simply will not be able to tell which are legitimate. Cybercriminals aren’t stupid, they want to target the broadest number of users and therefore closely watch for the most popular search terms.
In addition to having up-to-date security software in place, you need to use a product that visibly identifies for you the potential for malicious code on search results. I’ll mention McAfee’s Site Advisor solution (it’s FREE folks) first as they generated this report, and it’s the one I use on all my machines. Additionally, both Firefox and Internet Explorer have features you can use to alert you to malicious sites, and several other companies offer similar services.