[REVEALED] The Most Dangerous Person on the Web

Category: Security

Every year security software provider McAfee publishes a list of the 'most dangerous celebrities' on the Internet. The 'Hacker Celebrity Hot List' has nothing to do with their tech skills, how many times they've been in rehab, or how 'bad' their screen persona may be. It's their popularity that induces cyber-criminals to create malicious websites by exploiting their names. Here's what you need to know before you head off to your favorite search tool...

Ryan Gosling: Popular But Dangerous

Regardless of your motivation for doing so, you’re taking a big risk by searching for juicy tidbits about actor Ryan Gosling, or embarrassing photos of actress Emily Blunt. It’s not the Feds who will be after you, but hackers and identity thieves.

In McAfee's 2023 Hacker Celebrity Hot List, Ryan Gosling, the star of last summer's popular movie, Barbie, claimed the number one spot on the “most dangerous celebrities to search for” list. Emily Blunt, who appearred in the Oppenheimer film, claimed the number two spot. The Intel-owned security research and software development firm has produced similar lists for the past fifteen years, highlighting well-known celebrities whose names are frequently used by online scammers to direct you to dangerous websites or viruses when you search online.

Following the debut of the Barbie movie, Ryan Gosling's popularity surged along with the number of frauds involving the actor. Barbie was a big hit for both moviegoers and cybercriminals, as McAfee reported last year. The latter lured victims with a flurry of new scams that included downloading the movie with concealed malware.

In How to Help Your Kids Combat Clickbait Scams, McAfee says that searches for popular celebrities, or following salacious "clickbait" links may land you on a malicious website. These sites use a variety of tricks to steal personal information or infect your system with viruses, spyware, adware, phishing or other forms of malware. The Better Business Bureau concurs, warning that online links that claim to lead the reader to "amazing," "shocking" or urgent celebrity news may actually point to a site that allows malicious hackers to hijack your account or steal personal information.

Most Dangerous Celebrity: Ryan Gosling

The list of dangerous celebs, most recently published in late 2023, includes (in order)

  1. Ryan Gosling, star of the hit film, Barbie.

  2. Emily Blunt, actress appearing in Oppenheimer

  3. Jennifer Lopez, singer, actress and producer

  4. Zendaya, actress and singer

  5. Kevin Costner, actor, director, and star of Yellowstone series

  6. Elon Musk, tech entrepreneur

  7. Al Roker, TV weather man, author, and journalist

  8. Margot Robbie, star of the hit film, Barbie

  9. Bad Bunny, Spotify's most streamed artist of the 2023

  10. America Ferrera, star of the hit film, Barbie

Three of the top ten celebrities in that list were in the Barbie movie, so maybe Barbie is most dangerous person on the Web! Be especially cautious when searching for a celebrity name along with any of these keywords: audio book, lyrics, deepfake, free ringtone, free movie, free download, MP3 or MP4.

The study used McAfee’s Site Advisor service ratings to identify potentially risky Web sites. Site Advisor relies on test results run on thousands of sites per day by McAfee. WebAdvisor software that can alert you to potentially dangerous sites before you visit them is available free of charge and is incorporated in McAfee security products.

The implication of course is that McAfee's antivirus and other security products will protect you from Anna Kendrick and all other forms of online evil. That may be true, but there are many other excellent Internet security tools (some free) that you can use. McAfee does offer some common-sense advice to protect yourself against the most dangerous personalities online:

  • Beware of “free” stuff, especially if it sounds valuable. Scammers use the word “free” in conjunction with celebrities’ names to attract the greedy and gullible to promises of salacious photos or juicy gossip.
  • Refrain from illegal streaming and downloading suspicious music files. Many illegal downloads are riddled with malware or adware disguised as mp3 files.
  • Stick to well known, trusted celebrity news sites such as TMZor E! Online.
  • Always double-check the URL before clicking on it. Subtle misspellings are clues that a site is not the one it purports to be.
  • Keep your security software up to date.

Celebrity Deepfakes Also on the Rise

McAfee also warns about the related issue of AI-driven deepfakes that take advantage of celebrity names and images. Cybercriminals are using powerful artificial intelligence software to increase the sophistication, quantity, and variety of online scams and frauds, including those that maliciously use a celebrity's name or likeness. Elon Musk, for instance, been the target of numerous deepfake posts.

Using a sample set of the top 50 results, the McAfee researchers found that for every celebrity search, there were 25–135 deepfake URLs. While there are cases of harmful deepfakes, most celebrity deepfakes at the moment are related to recreational or deceptive endorsement use cases. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence to raise concerns about the potential misuse of celebrity deepfakes in the future to trick customers. Researchers at McAfee anticipate a rise in celebrity deepfakes used for disinformation and misinformation, malware downloads, phony endorsements, and cryptocurrency scams as AI technology becomes more widely available.

Have you been burned by a web search that steered you to deceptive or malicious content? Post your comment or question below.

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Most recent comments on "[REVEALED] The Most Dangerous Person on the Web"

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

I am not naive enough to think it would never happen to me, but I am glad I have never bought into the whole concept of celebrity endorsements (for products or politics). It's one thing for the early James Bond movies to show the Aston Martin (I had to look up the name to get the first part correct) cars, but in later years they became full-blown advertising platforms.
I go out of my way to not buy things that are shilled by 'celebrities' (with or without the quotes). Granted, I also despise naming rights but that is a rant for another day.
I laugh at the citing of t m z - sure, maybe not a baddie, but not a place I'm visiting anytime soon; at least not without my adblockers at full-strength.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

I use the Malwarebytes browser extension on ALL my browsers, it too will stop you from getting to any site that has malware on it, will interpose a page telling you what is there and asking if you really want to go there. Very useful tool.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

When I read the title of this article I felt sure it was going to be us, the internet user, who was going to be the most dangerous person on the web.

And in one way, it is us, if we click on everything that pops up on our screens or the things Bob has itemized, without a second thought, then we are the most dangerous thing :-)

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

I am responding to "jonathan's" comment. I laughed because "us" was my first thought as well when I opened the article. We have become way to gullible to links, anticipating that they are true, and perpetrating/spreading the info (fake or otherwise) by sharing it. I am well protected and try not to access anything that is questionable, though years ago I did search "white house" looking for the obvious, and ended up on a p*rn site which created some nightmares in the old windows/dos system. Survived it though and never did that again!

Posted by:

Arnarish M.
21 Mar 2024

11. Joe Biden

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

Before I opened the article, my guess was in descending order, us the readers, Donald Trump, Price Harry, Kate Middleton. Before you beat me up, I'm just a Canadian observing from afar. Don't start with mentioning Trudeau, please.

Posted by:

29 Mar 2024

I thought this was a tech site. Apparently it's yet another vile, degenerate political troll site.

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