celebrity signing autographs

Be careful about what you are searching for online regarding your favorite celebrity because it could lead to malware attacks. Social media and the internet have given us unprecedented access to our favorite actors, singers, artists and other famous people. Celebrity searches, everything from fashions and the latest gossip to viral videos and streaming shows, let us follow our favorite stars everywhere they go.

Unfortunately, there is a hidden cost for the fans if you click the wrong link. Hackers have learned that our obsession with famous people is a good way to spread viruses and other malware to a lot of people with very little effort, leading to malware attacks.

All they have to do is embed the harmful software in the code, then release that tidbit of information, a stolen article, a pirated episode of their show or any other similar content online. The very thing we are craving, information or entertainment involving these stars, is the mechanism for infecting our networks and devices, increasing the risk of malware attacks.

Security software developer McAfee tracked which celebrities were most likely to be used in this way. Each year, they compile a list that ranks celebrity search results by the number of infected hits there are. This year’s top spot, for example, goes to “Handmaid’s Tale” actress Alexis Bledel. That is followed by talk show host James Corden, actresses Sophie Turner, Anna Kendrick and Lupita Nyong’o, comedian and talk show host Jimmy Fallon, actor and martial artist Jackie Chan, performers Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj and finally actress Tessa Thompson.

The celebrities in this list are in no way responsible for the malware attacks and the harmful software that is being linked to their names. The film studios or recording labels for actors or singers are not responsible either. This is solely the work of hackers who follow what is trending online, nab an article of video, embed the virus and post it online. As people use search engines to learn more about their favorite stars, they click on the hackers’ links and infect their own networks.

This is especially dangerous if you accidentally download a harmful virus or malware at work, as every computer on your network may be infected and suffer a malware attack. The same is true of downloading this content using a school campus’ network. Even worse, if you are simply using a shared Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop, hotel or airport when someone else downloads celebrity-linked malware, you could be at risk of a malware attack.

To avoid this danger, be careful where you search and clicking on spoofed accounts or links. Only click trusted sources for information, and make sure that your security software is installed and updated regularly. Also make sure that your security software has a malware blocker, not just a scanner. A malware blocker will actively stop harmful software from downloading rather than just locating it after it is installed.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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