One of the joys of the internet is that it allows us to get an almost-instant update on the lives of pretty much anyone. That guy at school who asked you out in Year Nine and you said no? Check Facebook, and you’ll see that he’s now married with two children. Want to know what the former members of Steps are currently up to? To Wikipedia, my friend. Heard rumours about a development in a Kardashian’s love life and are secretly compelled to learn more? Google it.
However, according to new research, we should use caution when searching for certain celebrities online. McAfee, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, has released its annual report on which stars are most likely to generate malware-related search results – and it’s bad news for Avril Lavigne fans.
Lavigne came top of the list in the annual report, which “reveals which celebrities generate the riskiest search results that could potentially expose their fans to malicious websites”. The Guardian reports that Bruno Mars came in second place, followed by Carly Rae Jepsen, Zayn Malik and Celine Dion.
Craig David was the most dangerous UK celebrity to search for online, according to BBC Newsbeat, with Emeli Sandé and Liam Payne also among the “most dangerous” UK searches.
Cybercriminals are believed to create links at the top of popular celebrity searches. When clicked on, these links will send users to pages that can steal their personal information or install malware (‘malicious software’ designed to damage or gain access to a computer system).
“Cybercriminals continue to use the fascination of consumers with celebrity culture to drive unsuspecting users to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware, steal personal information and even passwords,” said McAfee in a statement.
The study aims to raise awareness about the potential dangers of clicking on untrustworthy links when searching for new music online, and also reveals how likely it is that searching for one of these celebrities will take you to a suspicious site.
A search for Lavigne carries a 14.5% risk of leading you to a potentially harmful webpage. This increases to 22% if you search the words “Avril Lavigne free mp3”.
It’s not clear why Lavigne appeared so high up on the list. The singer has not released any new music for four years, and has largely stayed out of the public eye since being diagnosed with Lyme Disease in late 2014. However, she recently revealed on Instagram that she is working on a new album, which may have prompted a surge in searches for her name.
McAfee also speculated that an internet conspiracy theory that Lavigne had died and been replaced with an actress called Melissa could have boosted her position on the list.
Gary Davis, McAfee’s chief consumer security evangelist, said that internet users will often engage in “risky behaviour like clicking on suspicious links that promise the latest content from celebrities” because they want to find out information and access music quickly and conveniently.
He advised consumers to “slow down and consider the risks associated with searching for downloadable content. Thinking before clicking goes a long way to stay safe online.”
Images: Rex Features