Lily Collins

Source: Gage Skidmore

Every year innocent and not-so-innocent searchers end up getting infected or attacked by high risk malware attacks which can harm your computer or steal your personal information. How do these people get tricked? It seems innocuous, but searching for your favorite celebrity can put your computer at high risk for attack if you aren’t careful.

To help warn searchers, McAfee puts out a list each year of the most dangerous celebrities to search for. Last year’s ‘winner’ was Emma Watson, but this year earns the designation, likely thanks to her starring role in this years fantasy film adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Watson, on the other hand, has fallen off the list.

McAfee’s announcement read:

Cybercriminals consistently take advantage of consumer interest around award shows, new movies and TV shows as well as the latest cultural trends driven by celebrities. These criminals capitalize on the public’s fascination with celebrity to lure them to sites laden with malware that enables them to steal passwords and personal information. This year, searching for a celebrity name coupled with the search terms “free app download” and “nude pictures” resulted in the highest instances of malware-laden sites.

Avril Lavigne and Sandra Bullock took the second and third spots this year, respectively. Women regularly make up the majority of the list, though some men manage to break into the ranks. This year, Jon Hamm was the only male coming in at number eight. McAfee also said the some of the most dangerous types of searches included:

  • “Lily Collins and free downloads”
  • “Lily Collins and nude pictures”
  • “Lily Collins and fakes”

McAfee also offered some tips for staying safe, especially if you’re going to be looking at this type of content.

Beware of content that prompts you to download anything before providing you the content. You may want to opt to watch streaming videos or download content from official websites of content providers.

“Free downloads” are significantly the highest virus-prone search term. Anyone searching for videos or files to download should be careful as not to unleash malware on their computer.

Always use password protection on your phone and other mobile devices. If your phone is lost or stolen, anyone who picks up the device could publish your information online.

Established news sites may not entice you with exclusives for one solid reason: there usually aren’t any. Try to stick to official news sites that you trust for breaking news. However, trusted sites can also fall prey to hackers. Make sure to use a safe search tool that will notify you of risky sites or links before you visit them.

Don’t download videos from suspect sites. This should be common sense, but it bears repeating: don’t download anything from a website you don’t trust — especially video. Most news clips you’d want to see can easily be found on official video sites, and don’t require you to download anything. If a website offers an exclusive video for you to download, don’t.

Don’t “log in” or provide other information: If you receive a message, text or email or visit a third-party website that asks for your information—credit card, email, home address, Facebook login, or other information—for access to an exclusive story, don’t give it out. Such requests are a common tactic for phishing that could lead to identity theft.

McAfee’s Most Dangerous Celebrities Study results have been released for this year and the news is bad for Harry Potter fans. Emma Watson is the most dangerous celebrity to search for.

The title was held by Heidi Klum last year, but she has dropped off of the list. Searching Watson’s name has a 12.6 percent chance to leading to dangerous sites that offer spyware, adware, viruses and all other sorts of dubious content.

Also of note in this years’ list is the lack of men. The entire top ten are female. The only man to appear in the top 20 is Jimmy Kimmel, who was ranked number 13. Last year only two men appeared on the list.

The message is clear; if you’re searching a female celebrity, be careful what you click on.


For more information, read Matt Mcgee’s article at Search Engine Land.

There are a lot of standard black hat SEO methods that have been around for a while, but those that stray a little on the darker side of SEO keep busy.  There are several new tactics that these people are using.

As SEO becomes a more prominent form of marketing, black hat methods are also becoming more well-known.  The latest term for these techniques is “poisoning”, which I find appropriate.  These SEOs will put their poisoned links (which contain malware and installations of other nefarious elements) into various places where people will find them through either particular keywords or through social media.

As a lot of people are not aware that these attacks happen, they can often give away account information, trusting that the sites they are visiting are reliable.  These attacks come through Twitter and Facebook as well as through standard search engine results.

For more info on this, check out this article by Last Click News.

The iPad is the latest Apple news and it’s been getting a lot of attention.  Considering this, some not-so-nice SEOs are using the fresh keywords to do black hat SEO to infect computers across the globe with malware.  They’re targeting laterally related keywords such as “Apple Tablet” and “Apple iPad Rumor”.

Be cautious if you see some weird results when you do searches on these types of terms.  The eWeek Security Watch has more info on this.

The tragic news of Brittany Murphy’s unexpected passing affected many.  However, there are some to whom this news affected in a different way – they saw a way to make a buck.

Personally, I think it’s rather sick, but there are some individuals who have taken this opportunity to take a hot news item and push spam and malware.  Quick dirty black-hat SEO methods can often get high results quickly, but then are found by Google and taken offline.  The issue is that even the short amount of time listings like these stay online can be enough to infect several machines.

Newer black-hat SEO attacks use news events to get attention to sites that pose as news sites, but act only to infect machines with malware schemes.  Be cautious when visiting unknown news sites that are “reporting” on hot news items.

The Tech Herald has more information on this particular attack, and F-Secure has more information on the specific malware details.

So it seems like some security guys have found a few new attacks, posted as image links on blogs.  These posts are engineered to end up on high Google results, but point to malware sites.  It apparently doesn’t work on up to date server software, so keeping your updates current is a good idea.

You can get more details here and here.