The Internet is full of scams, viruses and unwanted surprises.
But don’t be surprised if you search for a celebrity and wind up in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. McAfee, a computer security software company, has released its “most dangerous searches” list, and if you’re not careful, your search for a Project Runway recap involving Heidi Klum, for example, might just be the thing that lets a virus loose in your computer.
McAfee’s list includes lots of beautiful people, but the results of these searches can be downright ugly. Searching for Heidi Klum, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel, Piers Morgan and Scarlett Johansson can produce a results page that contains up to 10 percent fraudulent links.
That means one in 10 of the links that come up in the Google search results contain malware or other harmful programs designed to scam you or damage your computer.
But, if you’re doing a legitimate search for a research paper centered on Mila Kunis, you have no need to fear. Most of the malicious sites are tied to links touting racy photos (surprise, surprise).
Some sites will try to appear legitimate, but they will often try to get you to do something above and beyond clicking on the site (things like “downloading” a video player). So even if your intentions are pure, you need to be careful.
Let’s review some safe-searching practices that you should always use:
Have up to date security features installed on your machine. Programmers (the good guys) work hard to stay abreast to recent trends and will usually have a security measure available that will stop a lot of bad stuff.
Keep your security system fresh by updating regularly.
Use Internet filters. The best way to stay away from questionable sites is to block them altogether. This doesn’t prevent you from stumbling on a malicious link here and there, but it will reduce the risk substantially.
Don’t download external players. When you want to watch a video online, it should utilize a player that you already have installed on your computer (or it should play on the actual Web site). Be leery of any requests for additional downloads.
Only visit sites you know and trust. If you don’t recognize the domain name on the link (i.e. http://weirdguyinbasement.com/really-good-pictures-here), don’t open it. You can see where the link will go by hovering over the link without clicking.
The McAfee list reminds us that we should all be more careful in our search habits.
Hackers will take advantage of anything popular to try and get us. If you need help getting your computer’s security system up to date, give the Computer Guys USA a call at (928) 468-0000 for a free consultation.
And if you really want to know what’s going on with Heidi Klum, just Facebook her.
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC and CEO of “The Computer Guys USA, Inc.” with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.