Quick question: what do Jimmy Kimmel, Armin Van Buuren, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen have in common? If you answered they’re the likeliest celebrities to lead you to malicious programs on the Internet, you’re right! Perhaps we should give you more of an explanation.
Every year, using McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, we track and rank the celebrity names that are most likely to infect fans with malicious programs—typically called malware. We call them The Most Dangerous Celebrities™. And dangerous the search results could be.
This year, Jimmy Kimmel, host of late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, is the most dangerous celebrity when it comes to being linked to malware. In fact, when you search his name online you have a nearly 20% chance of clicking a malicious link. He’s only the second man to take the #1 danger slot, following Brad Pitt’s appearance on the top of the list in 2008. Other icons appearing on this year’s list are the popular Electronic Dance Music DJ Armin van Buuren (#2), Bruce Springsteen (#5), Britney Spears (#7), Jon Bon Jovi (#8) and Christina Aguilera (#10). Congratulations, Jimmy, you’ve beaten some of the finest A-list celebrities in the world.
So why are hackers co-opting these celebrity names? Well there are a variety of reasons, but most of them center on “downloadability”—or the likelihood that an item (i.e., photo, video, PDF, etc.) will be downloaded due to the name associated with it. You see, hackers need something to stealthily attach their packages of ill intent to, or else they run the risk of investing in a program that carries no return. To create that return, hackers seek out popular topics, news items, games and celebrities to attract your attention and entice you to download.
Hence: Jimmy Kimmel. He is one of the most popular entertainers who produces a lot of funny, viral video clips that are perfect for downloading and sharing. This gives hackers an excellent name to associate with their malware and maximize their downloads. This same logic can also be extended—though with different audiences in mind—to artists like Armin van Buuren and Jon Bon Jovi.
But downloads aren’t the only tool hackers can use to get spyware, adware, spam and other malware onto your computer. Merely visiting a dodgy website filled with malicious code is enough to infect most devices.
So how can you protect yourself? Well, there are a few tips you should be aware of.
- Go to official channels for your laughs. Sure, the latest Jimmy Kimmel video may be hilarious, but heading anywhere other than ABC.com, or well-known video sharing sites such as YouTube, to watch it is a risky proposition. Stick to well-known or official sites to lessen the chance of getting malware.
- Avoid free downloads. One of the most efficient methods hackers can employ to get malware on a victim’s system is to give material—especially desirable entertainment material—away for free. This is especially true on file-sharing sites.
- Be careful of links sent to you on social networks. Hackers will often try to entice you by sending phishing emails or embedding links on social media sites. If you see something that interests you, go to official or well-known video sharing sites and search for it there.
- Always use web protection. McAfee SiteAdvisor, a free download, will notify you of risky sites or links before you visit them.
- Use password protection. When it comes to digital safety, the password is your first line of defense. Always protect your devices with complex, hard to guess passwords. These passwords should be at least eight characters in length and use a combination of capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
- Use comprehensive security. Regardless of whether you follow celebrities or not, your devices are still at risk of infection. Protecting your investments with comprehensive security like McAfee LiveSafe™ service is a safe way to safeguard and divert your devices away from dangerous sites and downloads.
To learn more about which celebrities are the most dangerous, and to find out how to better protect yourself from malware, check out our Most Dangerous Celebrities breakdown.
And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfeeConsumer on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. As well, you can stay up to date on all of the #RiskyCeleb happenings by following the hashtag on Twitter.
The study was conducted using McAfee SiteAdvisor site ratings, which indicates which sites are risky to search when attached to celebrity names on the Web and calculates an overall risk percentage. McAfee SiteAdvisor technology protects users from malicious websites and browser exploits. SiteAdvisor technology tests and rates nearly every trafficked site on the Internet 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, Safari and Firefox.