It may be hard to believe that searching for the innocent face of actress Emma Watson above could result in harmful computer viruses or other malware seeking out your private information. But as the security firm McAfee is pointing out, you need to be careful which celebrities you search for. Some are more likely than others to be used by cybercriminals to lure you into downloading malware.
McAfee recently released its top 10 list of most dangerous celebrities to search for and some of them may surprise you.
Bumping out Heidi Klum from the number one spot compared to last year is Watson, the British "Harry Potter" series star who is currently promoting her new film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Searching for pictures or free downloads of Watson will give you a 12 percent chance of landing on a site with computer viruses or other malicious intent, according to McAfee.
McAfee found only women comprising its top 10 most dangerous celebrities this year. The only man to breach the top 20 was comedian and late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel as the 13th most dangerous.
Here's McAfee's comprehensive top 10 list:
“In today’s celebrity culture, consumers expect to be able to go online to catch up with the latest photos, videos, tweets, and stories about their favorite celebrities. Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, often times consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links,” Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee, said in a statement. “As the sophistication and expectations of consumers with respect to their online experience has increased, so has the level and ability to deliver malware either by malvertising, exploiting the user’s browser without their awareness, or masking malicious URLs behind shortened URLs.”
Noting trends from its research, McAfee sees that five in the top 10 are Latina woman and several supermodels grace the top 20 as well. It also points out that female artists, not just actresses, are being used in malware schemes.
On McAfee's blog, Robert Siciliano suggests users protect themselves in searches by using caution with links that tout "free" things.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Siciliano writes, urging people to use common sense.
He also tips people to be aware of the web address, noting the difference between Amazon.com and Amazzon.cn. There are also search plug-ins, like McAfee's SiteAdvisor, to help warn you away from potentially malware-laden sites.