In particular, fans searching for “Emma Watson and free downloads,” “Emma Watson and nude pictures,” “Emma Watson and fakes” and “Emma Watson and busted” are at risk of running into online threats. The pages are designed to steal personal information, by offering downloads of pictures and videos , which expose surfers or consumers to the risk of downloading viruses and malware. Just searching for the latest Emma Watson pictures and downloads yields more than a 12.6% chance of landing on a website that has tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware, McAfee said.
Cybercriminals are master sociologists and psychologists to a certain extent, predicting where user behavior will open up new attack vectors. As the sophistication and expectations of consumers with respect to their online experience has increased, so too 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.
“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,” said Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee. “Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, oftentimes consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links.
Overall, searching for a celebrity name with “free downloads” and “nude pictures” as part of the search term resulted in the highest result of risky sites. Accordingly, McAfee found that women are more dangerous than men to search for online. After Watson, Jessica Biel, Eva Mendes, Selena Gomez, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Shakira, Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara round out the top 10.
Latina women make up five of the top 10 spots: Mendes, Gomez, Shakira, Hayek and Vergara are all in the top 10. Three supermodels have made the top 20 list this year as well. Searching for downloads of Elle Macpherson (No. 16), Bar Refaeli (No. 17), and Kate Upton (No. 20) can result in landing on a risky site.
Funnyman Jimmy Kimmel is the only male to make the top 20 list this year, with Piers Morgan and Brad Pitt dropping off of the list from No. 3 and No. 10, respectively.
Interestingly, news coverage does not necessarily translate into maliciousness. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson were all absent from this year’s top 50 list despite the publicity surrounding the Cruise-Holmes divorce and the Stewart-Pattinson cheating scandal.
“Hot movies and TV shows, awards and industry accolades seem to be more of a factor than headline-grabbing activity,” said Greve. “Still, searching for any celebrity can bring up risky sites and the public should use caution by not clicking on any page that looks suspicious.”
Heidi Klum, Piers Morgan, Mila Kunis, Katherine Heigl, Anna Paquin, Adriana Lima Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams have all dropped out of this year’s top 10 list (Pitt, Stone, and McAdams tied for No. 10 last year).
McAfee recommends that fans opt to watch streaming videos or download content from an established site, such as Hulu, Netflix, NBC, or ABCtv rather than searching out unknown sources. Free downloads are significantly the highest virus-prone search terms, it added.