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Searching for your favorite celebrities seems innocent enough — you want to see what Taylor Swift is up to, or read Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest tweets, or find out when Amy Adams’ next movie comes out. But online delinquents can use your interest in celebs to target you with malware.
In fact, this type of targeting is so common that McAfee has released a Most Dangerous Celebrities list for the last ten years. Here’s this year’s list, as well a number of ways to stay safe when checking up on your favorite stars.
The 2016 Most Dangerous Celebrities List
According to McAfee, these are the most dangerous celebrities to search for:
What exactly does this list mean? McAfee says it looks at which celebrities’ names “generate the most dangerous search results that could expose fans to viruses and malware.” So in short, if you’re searching for Amy Schumer, Justin Bieber, Carson Daly, or anyone else on this list, there’s a good chance one of the results you’ll see could be laden with malware.
McAfee searched for “[celebrity’s name] + Torrent,” “[celebrity’s name] + Free MP4,” and “[celebrity’s name] + HD download” and analyzed the results to see which were likely to be malicious, then ranked each celebrity. Unsurprisingly, searching for torrents is the most dangerous. McAfee says a search for “Amy Schumer torrent” gives users a 33% of connecting to a malicious website. That’s really bad.
Even if you’re not looking for a torrent, though, it’s a good idea to be careful when you’re looking up celebrities. Here are five things you can do to stay safe.
Double-Check Links Before Clicking
When you see a search result for the celebrity you’re looking for, look carefully at the link URL before clicking it. If it doesn’t seem to match the title of the search result, or anything else seems off, don’t click it. This applies no matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s celebrity gossip or a pirated download.
Of course, torrents are inherently risky, because you never know exactly what you’re downloading. So even if you do find something that looks legit, you’re taking a risk. It’s a good idea to use a VPN when you’re torrenting, and to make sure you have an up-to-date antivirus suite up and running.
The first step in protecting yourself, though, no matter which safeties you have in place, is to not click suspicious-looking links. It’s simple, but it’s easy to skip and can make a huge difference.
Be Careful Downloading Files
Peer-to-peer file sharing, while in many cases illegal, certainly is convenient. And a lot of people take advantage of it to get their fixes of celebrity actors, actresses, and comedians. Even if you protect yourself with a VPN and adequate antivirus, it’s still not a good idea to download files.
Viruses and malware can be hidden in audio and video files. Downloaded software can be disguised as media files. Online miscreants are creative and will find a way to compromise almost any downloadable file. To be safe, just don’t do it. Streaming stuff online isn’t risk-free either, but it’s definitely safer than downloading.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information
Some phishing sites are very convincing, and scammers will take advantage of the fact that you’re looking for your favorite celebrities to get you to give away valuable information. For example, if you click on a link that promises an HD download of Rihanna’s latest single, you could be prompted for your email address and phone number.
You might not think anything of it, and just go back to Google when you discover that your information didn’t unlock the download you wanted. But now you’ve given away two valuable pieces of information to a potential attacker.
Don’t give away any personal information in exchange for torrents, downloads, or access to “exclusive information.” You probably won’t get what you’re expecting, and you may be compromising your security in the process.
Use Official Sources
Getting videos, audio clips, and news from reputable sites is always going to be better than trying to find a way to download them. Aziz Ansari’s Buried Alive, for example, can be streamed on Netflix, and you can be reasonably confident you aren’t incurring any risk in doing that. If you decide to torrent it, though, you may be opening yourself to an attack or scam.
YouTube is a great place to watch comedians and actors. Comedy Central posts full episodes of Trevor Noah’s nightly show. People posts all sorts of celebrity gossip. There are lots of sources for getting your celeb fix that are unlikely to hit you with a virus or malware.
Keep Your Antivirus Up-to-Date
You’re probably tired of hearing this by now, but there are still a lot of people out there who aren’t using a suitable antivirus app — if the last few years are any indication, there’s a good chance that 15% or more of users have no antivirus protection. So we’ll say it again.
Download an antivirus app. Now. There are plenty of free options for whatever operating system you use. You can find one that doesn’t use up a ton of system resources. No matter which one you use, it will help keep your computer safer. And keep it up to date. It’s easy to ignore update notifications, but if you allow the app to automatically download updates, you won’t have to worry about it.
As always, we urge you to use some common sense when it comes to your security. Don’t click suspicious links, don’t download things from unverified sources, use antivirus. It’s all pretty basic, but it’s also good to know that you could be targeted because you follow celebrities.
Do you search for and torrent your favorite celebrities? Have you ever clicked on a suspicious link doing so? Share your thoughts in the comments below!