Cybercriminals and hackers have been coming up with clever ways to trick victims into inadvertently sharing sensitive information or downloading harmful malware onto their computers and mobile devices.
In the past decade particularly, we have been relying on the Internet to keep up to date on the latest information and gossip about our favorite actors, musicians, public figures, and other popular culture celebrities.
As this trend has evolved over time, hackers have developed strategies to piggyback on the popularity of celebrities and other popular culture topics in order to attack unsuspecting Internet users.
In this article, I’ll explain why it’s important for you to be cautious when searching online—especially when it comes to searching for celebrities, news, and other pop culture-related topics.
Searching for Certain Celebrities Can Be More Dangerous than Searching for Others
Did you know that searching for certain celebrities can be more dangerous than searching for others?
Each year, McAfee conducts research on popular culture’s most famous people to reveal the riskiest celebrity athletes, musicians, politicians, comedians, and Hollywood stars on the web.
This year, the award for most dangerous celebrity to search for online goes to Lily Collins, star of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Mirror, Mirror.
According to the research from McAfee,
“searching for the latest Lily Collins pictures and downloads yields more than a 14.5% chance of landing on a website that has tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware.
The study from McAfee also recommends that you should be cautious when searching for the following celebrities this year: Avril Lavigne (searches for her name yield more than a 12.7% chance of landing on a website that has been tested positive for harmful malware), Sandra Bullock (10.8%), Katy Perry (10.4%), Britney Spears (10.1%), Jon Hamm (10.0%) and Emma Roberts (9.8%).
What To Watch Out For When Searching Online
When searching online (for celebrities or in general), you should always be on the lookout for the following:
- Free downloads or other too-good-to-be-true offers - If an offer seems too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. Hackers often set up phony sites that promote enticing offers or free digital gifts as a way to attack their victims and gain access to their machines or devices. If you land on a website that has an offer that seems too good to be true, avoid clicking any download links and leave the site. You may also want to run a security scan on your computer to check for and remove any malware that might have made it onto your machine or device.
- Sites that require you to download something before giving you access to content - you should always be cautious of websites that ask or require you to download anything before you can view exclusive content or stories. Hackers often use this strategy to plant malicious malware on your computer or device. If a link you click on sends you to an unfamiliar website that asks this of you, consider searching for the topic on a different news website that you know and trust. If the news story is actually legitimate, chances are other organizations will be writing and publishing articles about it.
- Sites that require you to provide personal information before viewing an “exclusive story” – Another way hackers and cybercriminals attack victims online is by setting up fake websites that ask visitors to provide personal information in order to view exclusive content or breaking news stories. If you land on an unfamiliar or new website and it asks you to provide information such as your home address, your personal email address, your credit card information, or Facebook login information, beware. It may be a ploy to steal your private information in order to gain access to your bank accounts, social media accounts, or any other login-protected websites.
- Misspelled website addresses or copy - Phony or malicious websites often include obvious misspellings in the content and the URL itself. It’s not uncommon for hackers and cybercriminals to purchase and use a domain name that is confusingly similar to a legitimate site (can you spot the difference between these two URLs? yahoo.com vs. yahooo.com). If you notice upon further inspection of a site that there are a handful of instances where obvious words are misspelled or sentences don’t make complete sense grammatically, leave the site immediately.
Strategies To Protect Yourself While Searching Online
To protect yourself when searching for celebrities or other popular culture topics online, follow these recommendations:
- Avoid giving out your personal information if possible – Keep your personal information private and safe, and only provide what is needed to trustworthy, secure sites.
- Avoid downloading anything from unfamiliar sites – If you don’t know what it is, don’t download it.
- Keep your browser and operating system updated - New releases of your browser and operating system often include crucial security updates.
- Keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs up to date - Don’t ignore notification about important updates to your antivirus programs.
- Use a VPN Service - Your laptop and mobile device probably contain some confidential information and data that you wouldn’t want stolen. Make sure it remains protected with a VPN and out of the hands of cybercriminals.
- Do your research - Find out if the site you are accessing is actually reputable and used by other people you know and trust.
- Be observant - Look for suspicious signs that support the fact that a website may be phony.