Emma Watson Most Dangerous Internet Celebrity 2012: Googling 'Harry Potter' Star May Yield Virus, Malware

  @howardkoplowitzh.koplowitz@ibtimes.com on September 11 2012 6:34 PM
Emma Watson
Emma Watson Reuters

Move over, Heidi Klum. Emma Watson has just dethroned you as the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Internet, according to anti-virus software maker McAfee.

Searching for Emma Watson on the Internet exposes users to a one in eight chance of being directed to a malicious website, according to McAfee.

Why is Googling the Harry Potter star so dangerous? Cybercriminals use a celebrity's name as a headline-grabber to direct traffic to their malicious sites, where they then coax a user into downloading a virus or malware, according to the McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrity study. The cybercriminals prey on users who search for pictures or videos of celebrities such as Emma Watson.

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. Due to the richness of the data and the high interaction, often times consumers forget the risks that they are taking by clicking on the links, said Paula Greve, director of Web security research at McAfee. As the sophistication and expectations of consumers with respect to their online experience has increased, so 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.

The phrasing you add to Emma Watson in your Internet search can increase the risk of being directed to a malicious site, according to McAfee. For instance, searching for Emma Watson and nude pictures, Emma Watson and fakes, and Emma Watson and busted pose the most risk. Files that may purport to contain pictures and videos are actually viruses and malware.

Model Heidi Klum, the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Internet in 2011, didn't even make this year's Top 10.

Here is a list of the top 10 most dangerous celebrities to search for on the Web:

1.       Emma Watson

2.       Jessica Biel

3.       Eva Mendes

4.       Selena Gomez

5.       Halle Berry

6.       Megan Fox

7.       Shakira

8.       Cameron Diaz

9.       Salma Hayek

10.   Sofia Vergara

McAfeee parsed the results to reveal a few trends:

  • Searching for Latinas is risky: Half of the top 10 (Mendes, Gomez, Shakira, Hayek and Vergara) consist of Latinas.
  • Women are more dangerous than men: Nobody with a Y chromosome cracks the top 10. The first male to appear on the list is Jimmy Kimmel at No. 13.
  • Proceed with caution when searching for supermodels: Three supermodels are in the Top 20 (Elle MacPherson at No. 16, Bar Refaeli at No. 17 and Kate Upton at No. 20.)
  • Beware of musicians. Gomez, Shakira, and Taylor Swift, at No. 15, are in the Top 20.
  • Headlines don't correlate to risk: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' divorce and the drama between Twilight co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson did not make them more dangerous. Those four stars don't even crack the top 50.
  • The list is shaken up every year: Everyone in last year's top 10 dropped out from that ranking in 2011: Klum, Piers Morgan, Mila Kunis, Katherine Heigl, Anna Paquin, Adriana Lima and Scarlett Johansson didn't make it this year. The same goes for four celebrities who tied for No. 10 in 2011 - Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams.

So how do you prevent yourself from being hit with a virus or malware? McAfee recommends watching streaming video or downloads from reputable sites such as Hulu, Netflix, NBC or ABCtv.

Avoid searching for free downloads, as they are highly virus-prone, according to McAfee.

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