Letting our guard down is the last thing we want to do when it comes to searching around on the Internet. Whether we’re searching for entertainment like fashion or music, or something more serious like answers to health questions that we may have; it’s always a crapshoot as to what we’ll come across in our search results—especially if we don’t take full advantage of safe-search settings like the one you’ll find in Google.
Every year, McAfee makes this point even more clear with their Most Dangerous Celebrities list. What they do is compile a list of celebrities who, based on their research, are the most risky celebrities to search for online. This list includes everyone from actors to politicians to athletes.
The purpose of the list is to not only instill some awareness in the general public when it comes to playing it safe on search engines, but to show which celebrities are being used as conduits by cybercriminals to spread malware (malicious software). In essence, searching for a video, picture, or a news article about the latest and hottest celebrity could leave you with a malware-infested computer instead.
According to McAfee’s security researcher, Dave Marcus, cybercriminals are getting smarter about the way they hide malicious content. On top of using websites to trigger involuntary downloads of this content, they’re turning to the shortened URLs that you see in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This makes it easier to post the link several times in a short period of time and to a lot people.
This year’s results changed the number one riskiest celebrity from Jessica Biel to Cameron Diaz. McAfee discovered that searching for the latest Cameron Diaz media poses a ten percent chance of landing on a website that’s full of online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, and viruses.
2010 Most Dangerous Celebrity List
1 Cameron Diaz – Searching for Diaz results in a one in ten chance of landing on a risky site. She has most recently been in the spotlight with blockbuster movies, “Knight and Day” and “Shrek Forever After.” When “Cameron Diaz and screensavers” was searched, 19% of the sites were identified as containing malicious downloads.
2 Julia Roberts – Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts is one of America’s sweethearts, and will soon be in the spotlight with her upcoming release of “Eat, Pray, Love.” The overall risk of searching for Roberts is nine percent, yet searching for “Julia Roberts and downloads” results in a 20% chance of downloading a photo, wallpaper or other file laden with malware.
3 Jessica Biel – Last year’s Most Dangerous Celebrity fell two spots with searches resulting in fewer risky sites this year. Biel continues to be in the spotlight with her on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Timberlake, and appeared in “The A-Team” in June 2010. While her overall search risk is 9%, searching for “Jessica Biel and screensavers” results in a 17% chance of landing on a risky site.
4 Gisele Bündchen – The world’s highest-paid supermodel moved up two spots since last year. Searching for “Gisele Bündchen and screensavers” can prove risky, 15% of the search results for this beauty can put spyware, malware or viruses on your computer.
5 Brad Pitt – Pitt is often in the spotlight with news of his movies and his personal life. It’s no wonder why this leading man has been in the top ten for the past three years. He moved up in rank five spots this year. Downloading photos, screensavers, or other files of Brad can potentially put adware or spyware in your computer.
6 Adriana Lima – Searching for downloads of this Brazilian beauty can direct users to red-ranked sites. Lima is best known for being a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 2000.
7 Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nicole Kidman – Searching for these Hollywood starlets resulted in an equal number of risky download websites.
8 Tom Cruise – With recent buzz around his MTV Awards performance as well as his movie, “Knight and Day,” Cruise rises to the top ten.
9 Heidi Klum, Penelope Cruz – Both of these ladies are consistently in the spotlight, and share the #9 spot. Cybercriminals use their names to lure people to risky sites. Klum hosts “Project Runway” and Cruz has been in the spotlight recently for her role in the “Sex and the City 2″ movie and is expected to be in the fourth film of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.
10 Anna Paquin – This “True Blood” star is as dangerous on the web as she is on the screen. Searching for screensavers of Paquin can lead you to downloads filled with malware.
Parents, there are a few things you can do to protect your family from these cybercriminals:
1. Talk to your children.
a. Keep an open dialogue with them is the best way to know which websites they visit and who they’re searching for online. Talk to them about this list and the consequences that can follow from searching these particular celebrities. Kids are fully capable of making the best decisions on the Internet; they just aren’t as aware of the problem as they should be.
2. Check your browser’s history.
a. If you don’t already know how to, the process is pretty straightforward, just follow these steps. This helps you get an idea of what websites your child is going to, who they’re searching for on search engines like Yahoo! or Google, and when they’re doing it.
3. Set up Google Safe Search for them.
a. This is also really easy to do, and it can make all the difference in the world for you and your child.
b. What Safe Search does is filter out all of the crude or malicious content that they would otherwise encounter when the search engine is running on its default settings. This keeps them limited to sites that are safe to view, and at the same time, greatly decreasing the chances of malware attacks on your computer.