Musicians and reality TV stars top the list in McAfee’s 10th annual Most Dangerous Celebrities study

  • Popstar Ellie Goulding is named the UK’s Most Dangerous Celebrity to search for online according to McAfee study
  • Geordie Shore stars Charlotte Crosby and Holly Hagan feature in top five list of riskiest celebrities
  • 44% of Brits say they would click on a site before checking it was safe whilst over a third (36%) do not know what malware is

Singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding replaces Kelly Brook as McAfee’s most dangerous celebrity to search for online in the UK. Now in its tenth year, the study involves researching popular culture’s most famous people to reveal which of them generates the most dangerous search results. The McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrities™ study, published by Intel Security, revealed that searches for certain musicians and reality TV celebrities tend to expose internet searchers in the UK to more possible viruses and malware.

This is Ellie Goulding’s first time in McAfee’s list of the most dangerous celebrities and by topping the poll, beating the likes of Charlotte Crosby (2), Rita Ora (3), Calvin Harris (4) and Geordie Shore star, Holly Hagan (5).

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to leverage consumers’ ongoing fascination around popular culture, whether that be from reality TV shows, album releases or celebrity breakups. In fact, the study found that more than one in 10 Brits (11%) look at celebrity news or pictures online as many as four times a day. Yet, worryingly, nearly half of those surveyed (44%) say they would click on a site without checking it was genuinely safe and over a third (36%) admitted that they do not know what malware is.

Hackers capitalise on this interest around celebrities, and this lack of consumer awareness of the security risks online, by enticing unsuspecting consumers to sites laden with malware that can steal passwords and personal information.

“The desire for consumers to stay up to date with the latest celebrity gossip can often make them unwittingly vulnerable to cybercrime. Many consumers are quick to click but do they actually stop and consider the potential risks this poses by doing so?” said Nick Viney, Consumer VP at Intel Security.

“Cybercriminals are keen to exploit this craving for real-time information on celebrities, and will lead consumers to sites that download harmful malware onto devices to ultimately steal an individual’s all important, and incredibly valuable, data. It’s clear more needs to be done to help consumers understand the threats online and what precautions they need to take to ensure their data, is kept safe when searching for celebrity news.”

Malcious music

People looking to download free music may be especially at risk. Celebrity names combined with the terms ‘free MP4’, ‘HD downloads,’ or ‘torrent’ are some of the most searched terms on the internet and when consumers search for music that is not made available through legitimate channels, they put both their digital lives and devices at risk. Searching for the new releases from the likes of Ellie Goulding, Calvin Harris and Rita Ora could, therefore, be putting consumers in danger.

Risky reality TV

Consumers are now, more than ever, streaming videos, TV shows and movies online. As file sharing and torrent use continues to grow in popularity, it’s no surprise that TV stars are a target for cybercriminals seeking to create malicious files.

This desire to stay up to date with the latest developments in reality shows such as Geordie Shore is evidenced by two of the stars from the show, Charlotte Crosby and Holly Hagan, featuring in the top five most dangerous celebrities in the UK.

The top five celebrities from this year’s study that pose the highest risks online include:

Position

Celebrity

1

Ellie Goulding

2

Charlotte Crosby

3

Rita Ora

4

Calvin Harris

5

Holly Hagan

How can consumers better protect themselves from cybercrime online and still stay up to date with the latest popular culture? Intel Security provides some top tips:

o   Think before you click! Are you looking for the latest copy of Ellie Goulding’s single ‘Still Falling for You’? Or perhaps you want to find out what’s happening with Holly Hagan and Kyle Christie’s relationship in Geordie Shore. Whatever you do, don’t click on that third-party link. Instead, get your content directly from the original source to ensure you aren’t clicking on anything that could be malicious

o   Use caution when searching for “torrent.” This term is by far the riskiest search term. Cybercriminals can use torrents to embed malware within authentic files making it difficult to determine if a file is safe so avoid using torrents, especially when there are legitimate streaming options available

o   Use web protection, such as McAfee® WebAdvisor. It will notify you of risky sites or malicious links before you visit them and it’s too late

o   Keep your personal information personal. Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to steal your personal information. If you receive a request to enter information like your credit card, email, home address, or social media login don’t give it out thoughtlessly. Do your research and ensure it’s not a phishing or scam attempt that could lead to identity theft

o   Protect all your devices. Consumers need to protect all aspects of their digital lives regardless of where they are, what device they use or where they store their personal data. Use solutions that work across all your devices to deliver protection against threats, such as malware, hacking and phishing attacks

Find more information: 

  • To learn more about the research, you can check out:

o   Blog post from Gary Davis: https://blogs.mcafee.com/consumer/most-dangerous-celebrities-2016

o   Twitter: Follow @IntelSecurity for live online safety updates and tips. Use hashtag #RiskyCeleb to discuss the Most Dangerous Celebrities of 2016

  • Web surfers can also visit the Intel Security Facebook page at www.facebook.com/intelsecurity and McAfee Security Advice Center for information on the latest consumer threats, and tips for living safe online.
  • If you do decide to search for information on a major event or celebrity in the news, make sure your entire household’s devices have protection, such as McAfee LiveSafe™ service,which helps protect most PCs, Macs, and tablets and smartphones. It also includes malware detection software, McAfee® Mobile Security, to better protect your smartphone or tablet from many types of malware.

Survey methodology

Intel Security conducted the study using McAfee® WebAdvisor site ratings to determine the number of risky sites generated by searches, on Google, Bing and Yahoo!, that included a celebrity name and commonly searched terms (noted below) likely to yield malware.  From that, an overall risk percentage was calculated for each celebrity. “Most Dangerous” really means that these celebrities are likely popular search subjects.

McAfee SiteAdvisor technology helps protect users from malicious websites and browser exploits. SiteAdvisor technology tests and rates nearly every Internet website it finds, and uses red, yellow and green icons to indicate the website’s risk level. Ratings are created by using patented advanced technology to conduct automated website tests and works with Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. Search terms included:

o   “Celeb name + Torrent”

o   “Celeb name + Free MP4”

o   “Celeb name + HD download”

The results indicated the percentage of risk of running into online threats — if a user clicked all the results generated by the terms. Fans clicking on sites deemed risky and downloading files including photos and videos from those sites may also be prone to downloading viruses and malware.

Intel Security also conducted third party research using Google Consumer Surveys to survey 1,000 people in the UK.

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