Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of India’s World Cup winning team, and one of the country’s most celebrated sportsmen, has topped the McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrity list 2019. In its thirteenth edition, McAfee’s research identified popular celebrities generating the riskiest search results that could potentially expose their fans to malicious websites and viruses.
Dhoni led the team to the 2011 World Cup title after 28 years, and is seen as an iconic figure in the country. In India, where cricket is a religion, MS Dhoni is a legend and is renowned across the world for his cool demeanour and resilience. With a biopic “Dhoni – The untold story”, and a docu-series “Roar of the Lion”, to honour the superstar, Dhoni’s fame entices entertainment, sports, and cinema buffs alike. His immense popularity has created a field day for cybercriminals to lure unsuspecting consumers to malicious websites, that may install malware or steal personal information and passwords.
Emerging second on the list, was another Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, followed by Gautam Gulati, winner of the reality TV show – Bigg Boss. Following them closely was Bollywood sensation Sunny Leone, and pop icon Badshah. Next on this list was Radhika Apte (6), Shraddha Kapoor (7), Harmanpreet Kaur (8), P.V. Sindhu (9) and Cristiano Ronaldo (10).
“The significant ease of internet access, through a host of connected devices has made it increasingly viable for users to avail content from all over the world. As subscription-based content platforms continue to grow in India, netizens often look for free and pirated content such as major sports events, movies, TV shows, and images of their favourite superstars. Unfortunately, they may not be fully aware of the risks that malicious websites providing such content can pose in exchange for this access.” said Venkat Krishnapur, Vice-President of Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India.
He further added, "Cybercriminals leverage this opportunity and prey on consumer vulnerabilities when they compromise on security in favour of convenience. It is essential for consumers to recognize these threats, think before they click and avoid suspicious links that promise free content."
In summary, consumers are faced with endless options to feed their obsession with their favourite celebrities. They are interacting with content across multiple devices and conducting potentially dangerous searches across the internet to find the latest information or gossip without fear of consequence. For cybercriminals, this creates a field day to lure unsuspecting consumers to malicious websites that may install malware or steal personal information and passwords.
In the quest for freebies
Cricketers are larger than life personalities in India, who not only resonate with sports, but also with the entertainment and lifestyle audiences. Free content related to the top two personalities, M. S. Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, is highly sought after, as India just witnessed the World Cup 2019 that saw active and passive participation from both these legends.
Demographically, India is a young country where almost a third of its population is comprised of millennials with more than 50% of its population below the age of 25. By 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be approximately 29 years, making it one of the youngest countries in the world. As this digital native population continues to spend more time online owing to cheaper data and proliferation of smart devices, they will continue to remain soft targets for cybercriminals who thrive on such user behaviour. It’s important for them to understand the risks associated with torrent or pirated downloads and avoid being exploited by savvy cybercriminals.
Tips to Help Consumers Stay Safe Online:
- Be careful what you click. Users looking to avail free content related to MS Dhoni should be cautious and only stream and download directly from a reliable source. The safest thing to do is to wait for the official release instead of visiting a third-party website that could contain malware.
- Refrain from using illegal streaming sites. When it comes to dangerous online behaviour, using illegal streaming sites is the equivalent of spreading wildfire to your device. Many illegal streaming sites are riddled with malware or adware disguised as pirated video files. Do yourself a favour and stream the show from a reputable source.
- Protect your online realm with a cybersecurity solution. Send your regards to malicious actors with a comprehensive security solution like McAfee Total Protection. This can help protect you from malware, phishing attacks, and other threats.
- Use a Web Reputation tool. Using a Web reputation tool such as freely available McAfee WebAdvisor which alerts users when they are about to go to a malicious website.
- Use parental control software. Kids are fans of celebrities too, so ensure that limits are set for your child on the devices they use and use parental control software to help minimize exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.