Research from security firm McAfee shows that some celebrities are just dangerous to Google and search for around the web because of the litany of fake websites out there that try to infect your computer with viruses and malicious code as you innocently seek out wallpaper and screensavers of your favs.
Brad Pitt leads the pack on a list that includes Jessica Alba and‚ Katherine Heigl.
“Fans searching for “Brad Pitt,” “Brad Pitt downloads,” and Brad Pitt wallpaper, screen savers and pictures have an 18% chance of having their PCs infected with online threats, such as spyware, spam, phishing, adware, viruses and other malware,” McAfee said. “Cybercriminals are using A-listers’ names and images, like Beyoncƒ© and Justin Timberlake, to lure Internet users who surf the Web for the latest gossip, screen savers and ringtones to “fake” Web sites that look legitimate.”
The list includes:
1. Brad Pitt – When “Brad Pitt screensavers” was searched, more than half of the resulting Web sites were identified as containing malicious downloads with spyware, adware and potential viruses.
2. Beyoncƒ© – Inputting “Beyoncƒ© ringtones” into a search engine yields risky Web sites that promote misleading offers to gather consumers’ personal information.
3. Justin Timberlake – Interest in his high-profile relationships makes him an easy target for spammers and hackers. When searching for “Justin Timberlake downloads” one Web site advertised free music downloads that were flagged as directly leading to spam, spyware and adware.
4. Heidi Montag – “The Hills” star is a popular search term when it comes to searching for wallpaper. A host of wallpaper Web sites contained hundreds of malware-laden downloads.
5. Mariah Carey – Spammers and hackers are using Mariah Carey screen saver Web sites to link to other sites proven to contain spyware, adware and other threatening downloads.
6. Jessica Alba – Red-ranked risky sites were identified when searching for “Jessica Alba” and “Jessica Alba downloads.” The sites contained hundreds of malicious downloads, links to other bad sites, misleading offers to gather information, and a high number of spam emails when an email address was provided.
7. Lindsay Lohan – This young Hollywood starlet is as dangerous to search online as she is famous. Searching for “Lindsay Lohan downloads” resulted in several dangerous Web sites laden with hidden adware.
8. Cameron Diaz – Cybercriminals use download Web sites related to Cameron Diaz’s image to link to other harmful sites containing spyware.
9. George Clooney, Rihanna – The technology found one Web site embedded with hundreds of dangerous wallpaper and photo downloads after inputting “George Clooney downloads.” “Rihanna pictures” was also a risky search term, as McAfee identified a site that spammed its test email address.
11. Angelina Jolie – When “Angelina Jolie downloads” was searched, the software highlighted a risky site with 978 hidden malware-infected wallpaper and photo downloads, as well as links to other potentially dangerous URLs.
12. Fergie – A Fergie screen saver site was flagged as offering 111 risky downloads that could seriously compromise a PC’s privacy with unwanted spyware and adware.
13. David Beckham, Katie Holmes – The “David Beckham” search term generated a great deal of wallpaper and screen saver downloads veiled with malware. Consumers should also exercise caution when searching for “Katie Holmes” online – one download site advertised free screen savers that, if downloaded, would infect your computer with malicious programs like spyware.
15. Katherine Heigl – Hollywood’s big headliner in recent years is now susceptible to Internet lurkers too. “Katherine Heigl” was searched and a site was identified containing hundreds of malware-infected pictures.
‚ “Cybercriminals employ numerous methods, yet one of the simplest but most effective ways is to trick consumers into infecting themselves by capitalizing on Americans’ interest in celebrity gossip,” said Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee’s Product Development and Avert Labs. “Tapping into current events, pop culture or commonly browsed sites is an easy way to achieve this. And because of Americans’ obsession with following celebrities’ lifestyles, they are an obvious target. We have to take precautions in casually navigating the Web since many subtle sites may be rife with malware for consumers’ computers.”
The list was compiled using McAfee SiteAdvisor, which can be downloaded for free at‚ www.mcafee.com/siteadvisor.