US pop singer Avril Lavigne has topped a list of the most dangerous celebrities to search for online compiled by anti-virus firm McAfee.
Despite the fact the Canadian singer-songwriter has not released any new music for more than four years after being struck down with Lyme disease in 2014, cyber criminals are using her name more often than any other celebrity’s to entrap fans into downloading malware.
Other celebrities on the list, which the online security firm has been compiling for 11 years, include Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber.
While past lists have exposed the risks of searching for actors and comedians such as Emma Watson and Amy Schumer, this year’s top ten is made up exclusively of musicians and pop stars.
McAfee looked at how likely it was that searching for a celerity’s name followed by a term such as “MP3” or “download” would be to lead internet users to malware that might infect their device.
The company noted that cyber criminals continue to use the public’s fascination with celebrity and pop culture to trick unsuspecting fans into visiting sites that could compromise their hardware, personal information or passwords.
McAfee suggested that Lavigne’s appearance at the top of this year’s list might be down a to an internet conspiracy that the Sk8er Boi singer had died and been replaced by a clone named Melissa.
Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist at McAfee, commented: “In today’s digital world, we want the latest hit albums, videos, movies and more, immediately available on our devices.
“Consumers often prioritise their convenience over security by engaging in risky behaviour like clicking on suspicious links that promise the latest content from celebrities.
“It’s imperative that they slow down and consider the risks associated with searching for downloadable content. Thinking before clicking goes a long way to stay safe online.”
Advising pop fans how to avoid being duped by hackers attempting to use stars’ names to entrap them, McAfee said internet users should wait until the official release of artists’ new material and only download music from trusted sources.
The company also cautioned that searching for “free MP3” returns a high number of links to sites that contain malware.
R&B singer Craig David, who recently made a successful comeback after a number of years in the wilderness since his early 2000s heyday, was the most dangerous celebrity to search for in the UK.
Other artists to avoid in Britain include Emeli Sande, Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Lily Allen, according to McAfee.
As was the case in the days of popular P2P download platforms such as Limewire and Kazaa, the majority of sites offering free MP3 files will infect downloaders with some form of malware.