Celebrity news sells newspapers and gets clicks for websites. That’s a given. But you may not realize that cybercriminals have figured out that hot stories can get people to fall for online tricks too! When you’re searching for news of your favorite Hollywood star or catching up on celebrity gossip, you probably turn to search engines to find the latest and greatest stories. But watch out where you click since some of those web pages might have been created simply to trick you into a visit, a dangerous visit that will infect your computer with malware.
It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Poisoning. Not necessarily new but now such a refined operation that the criminals simply monitor what is newsworthy or hot on search trend sites, then they build web pages and include the search terms likely to trip you into a click. When the Haiti earthquake disaster struck, we saw infected web pages with terms like “Haiti, Earthquake, Relief, Charity” as the scammers tried to trick the most charitable among us into entering our credit card details on fake charity sites. When singer Michael Jackson tragically died, his death was exploited by cybercriminals the world over in a manner of minutes. One of the most vile poisoned search terms was for those offering to show you a “secret” autopsy report. It’s not hard to imagine how naïve Internet users, especially children, might fall for these tricks.
As news of jailtime for actress Lindsay Lohan continues to spread, we can reliably predict that scammers will attach themselves to her story, infecting legitimate and fake webpages with malicious code, keystroke loggers, viruses and other exploits designed to silently jump onto your computer when all you might do is click on the wrong search result. Ms. Lohan is so concerned about her fans being abused in this way, she wanted to share a message with the public about this issue. She told me in a recent email, “I know I am very newsworthy, especially with everything going on and I’d hate to see my current situation cause frustration or damage to my fans. If my friends and fans want to know what’s going on with me, they need to stick to reliable news media outlets and not click on just any link in a search result. Better yet, please follow my Twitter feed and get the news straight from me!”
It’s a remarkable event when a celebrity takes time out from their own story to consider the danger facing their fans.
Here are some tips you can use for any online search activity but most urgently during a time of fast-breaking news about something you are curious about:
Install top notch internet security software that includes search protection, like Norton Internet Security and Norton 360.
Review the search results and only click on links rated “Safe”.
On social networks and microblogging services, be cautious about clicking on a link, even if from a friend. There’s always a risk your friend’s account has been hijacked by a cybercriminal. To be sure the links are safe, run Norton Safe Web for Facebook before you click.
As Ms. Lohan says, often it’s best to rely upon known and trusted media sites, as well as news coming straight from the source. Don’t let your eagerness to be “in the know” allow you to fall for a cybertrick!