Increase in online scams target Americans searching for content around big name celebrities
Actress Anna Kendrick is the most dangerous celebrity to search for according to McAfee’s annual report
Other celebrities in the top 10 include veteran female leads, talk show hosts and musicians such as Blake Lively, Taylor Swift and Jimmy Kimmel
Study reveals which online celebrity searches link to malware and other malicious sites
Actress Anna Kendrick, best known for her roles in musical comedy Pitch Perfect and HBO Max series Love Life – tops McAfee’s U.S. list of most dangerous celebrities to search for online. For the fourteenth year, McAfee researched which famous names generate the riskiest search results that could potentially trigger consumers to unknowingly install malware on their devices.
Kendrick found herself as the No. 4 most dangerous celebrity in 2019, and thanks to the recent release of Trolls World Tour, in which she was the voice of Princess Poppy, she is now in the No. 1 spot in 2020. Kendrick first rose to fame for her role as Jessica in the Twilight series in 2008, and through her subsequent performances as college freshman Beca Mitchell in Pitch Perfect, single mother and vlogger Stephanie Smothers in A Simple Favor, and more – she has brought many lovable and quirky characters to life on the big screen. Yet, McAfee’s research shows that the relatable actress is in fact the most dangerous celebrity to search for in 2020, as her name generates the most harmful links online.
Trailing Kendrick as the No. 2 most dangerous celebrity is rapper, record producer and entrepreneur Sean Combs (also known as P. Diddy), and TV and film star Blake Lively at No. 3. Mariah Carey is No. 4, followed by fellow musical legends Justin Timberlake (No. 5) and Taylor Swift (No. 6). Rounding out the top ten are talk show host Jimmy Kimmel (No. 7), actress Julia Roberts (No. 8), actress and comedian Kate McKinnon (No. 9) and musician Jason Derulo (No. 10).
In 2020, as shelter in place orders took effect due to COVID-19, Americans have been particularly active online, increasing their activity across many devices and scouring the internet for a wide variety of entertainment. From free movies and TV shows to the latest celebrity news, consumers turned to digital celebrity content to entertain themselves, especially during the global pandemic. Hackers honed-in on this trend, following consumer behavior to educate their scam strategies.
"Cybercriminals use consumers’ fascination with celebrity culture to drive unsuspecting fans to malicious websites that install malware on their devices, potentially putting personal information and log-in details in the wrong hands," said Baker Nanduru, VP of McAfee’s Consumer Endpoint Segment. "Consumers are searching the web for free online entertainment now more than ever, and as cybercriminals continue to implement deceptive practices such as fake sites claiming to offer free content, it is crucial that fans stay vigilant about protecting their digital lives and think twice before clicking."
The top 10 celebrities from this year’s U.S. study are:
Musicians Still a Hot Ticket
While live concerts and festivals came to a halt earlier this year, consumers are still seeking music – both old and new – to help them navigate unprecedented times. Musicians make up 50% of the top 10 most dangerous celebrities – hailing from all genres, backgrounds and generations. Rapper, songwriter and record producer Sean Combs (No. 2) sparked fan interest by announcing the return of MTV’s Making the Band, as well as hosting a fundraiser dance-a-thon featuring other celebrities to raise money for healthcare workers. Combs is no stranger to the music industry, nor McAfee’s list, as he also ranked No. 8 in 2017.
During shelter-in-place, Mariah Carey (No. 4) announced a new album and exclusive holiday special with Apple+, while Justin Timberlake (No. 5) welcomed a new baby and Taylor Swift (No. 6) released a surprise new album, folklore.
2020 Brought Back Interest in Classics
This year, consumers looked to industry veterans to provide comfort as they navigated a new normal. The list includes a mix of celebrities from classic romantic comedies, musicals and feel-good motion pictures. From Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick (No.1), to Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ Blake Lively (No. 3) – McAfee’s list features prominent actresses from the nostalgic fan favorites. Pretty Woman and Eat Pray Love’s Julia Roberts also landed the No. 8 slot this year, ranking No. 2 a decade ago.
Comedians Bring the Laughs and Malware
Actress and comedian Kate McKinnon (No. 9) announced that she would star as Carole Baskin in the upcoming 'Tiger King' TV series, continuing the chaos around the documentary that captured the attention of many across the globe. Late-night TV Jimmy Kimmel (No. 7) continues to find himself on McAfee’s list of dangerous celebrities. Earlier this summer, Kimmel announced that his late-night show would take summer-long hiatus, allowing him to spend time with his family and prep to host the Emmy Awards.
Tips to Help Consumers Stay Safe Online:
Consumers can do their part by being vigilant in practicing safe online behavior with the following tips:
Be careful what you click. Users looking for popular coming-of-age films from the last decade, as well as updates on their favorite celebrities, should be cautious and only click on links to reliable sources. The safest thing to do is to wait for official releases and leverage legitimate TV and movie streaming platforms, instead of visiting third-party websites that could contain malware.
Refrain from illegal streaming and downloading suspicious mp3s. Whether consumers prefer throwing it back to Justin Timberlake’s greatest hits, or rushing to stream Taylor Swift’s surprise album – it is important to only use legitimate music streaming platforms, even if they come at a cost. Many illegal downloads are riddled with malware or adware disguised as mp3 files.
Protect your online safety with a cybersecurity solution. Safeguard yourself from cybercriminals with a comprehensive security solution like McAfee Total Protection. This can help protect you from malware, phishing attacks, and other threats.
Use parental control software. Kids are fans of celebrities too, so ensure that limits are set for your child on their devices and use parental control software to help minimize exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.
For More Information:
To learn more about the study, check out:
Blog post from Baker Nanduru: https://www.mcafee.com/blogs/consumer/most-dangerous-celebrity-2020/
Twitter: Follow @McAfee_Home for online safety tips, and use the hashtag #RiskyCeleb to discuss the Most Dangerous Celebrities of 2020
Local lists broken down by country are available upon request
McAfee utilized Google API Console to search for popular mobile, PC and platform games coupled with search modifying terms (e.g. celebrity + torrent). "Most dangerous" really means that these celebrities are likely popular search subjects.
Search terms used this year:
Using McAfee WebAdvisor data, resulting domains and URLs were measured and assigned a risk of "high," "medium" and "unverified." URLs were then given a score between negative 127 and positive 127 with higher scores indicating a riskier website. The score was calculated using the following formula:
Danger = 1*(high count) + 0.5*(medium count) + 0.13*(unverified count)
McAfee is a leader in personal security for consumers. Focused on protecting people, not just devices, McAfee consumer solutions adapt to users’ needs in an always online world, empowering them to live securely through integrated, intuitive solutions that protects their families and communities with the right security at the right moment. For more information, please visit https://www.mcafee.com/consumer.
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