Be cautious if you plan to Bing Jessica Biel or Google Brad Pitt. A new report says you might get a virus.
The Hollywood actors are among the top 10 celebrity searches online that can lead to computer problems, according to a report released Tuesday by the computer security company McAfee. The company named Biel the “most dangerous celebrity in cyberspace.” One in five Internet searches for terms related to “Jessica Biel” leads to a Web page, photo, video or piece of spam that contains a cyber-security threat, the report said. The former “7th Heaven” star and girlfriend of singer Justin Timberlake is followed on the “most dangerous” list by singer Beyonce, actress Jennifer Aniston and football hunk Tom Brady. Singer and reality TV star Jessica Simpson rounds out the top five. Pitt, who topped last year’s list, moved down to 10th. The report shows that hackers use pop culture trends to spread viruses and malicious software, said Shane Keats, a research analyst at McAfee. Biel is “very, very popular right now, so it says to me that the cyber criminals really do know who’s hot and who’s not,” Keats said. “They really are smart. They can spot a trend as well as anyone else can — as well as Paris Hilton can.”
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Risks associated with the searches range from “annoying to devastating,” he said. But they don’t mean people should be afraid of using the Internet. Keats’ advice Surf Web sites you know and trust. “You really can’t go wrong if you stick to the really well-lighted parts of the Internet,” he said. “As soon as you go off the big boulevards, you go off map and you have the potential to land in a dark alley.” Those “dark alleys” are where fake photos and harmful downloads are most likely to damage a person’s computer, he said. Keats acknowledged that computer viruses can come from many places and many types of searches. He said McAfee chose to highlight celebrity searches because they are popular and because they’re a good teaching tool — a way to make cyber security resonate with everyone. McAfee makes anti-virus software that can be used to combat cyber attacks. Reports from computer security companies are often criticized as somewhat promotional. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has information on anti-virus software and tips on how to stay safe online. The company said it surveyed 900 Web sites and 150 ring tones for its analysis. It ranked celebrities based on the percentage of search results that were found to be damaging and on how harmful those sites turned out to be. Biel’s publicist did not respond to a CNN request for comment. A news release from McAfee said the company was surprised to find President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama relatively low on the list. They ranked 34th and 39th, respectively. Young Hollywood stars were popular on the list. Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan both were in McAfee’s top 15. Only two men — Brady and Pitt — made the top 10.