(BPT) - As Americans continue to follow stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations, their personal and professional online activity has drastically increased. As a result of the jump in online activity, the threat of data breaches and identity theft is greater than ever.
That's because cybercriminals are getting smarter by continually adjusting their strategies to consumer behavior. After COVID-19 hit early this year, for example, they targeted their efforts even more closely to those spending the most work and leisure time on their smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. These days, many of their scams are aimed at people seeking free online entertainment - free movies and TV shows, breaking celebrity news or miscellaneous clickbait - as Americans often stay home rather than venturing into the pandemic-ridden world for recreation and amusement.
The risky side of entertainment news
How do the scammers get you? One way they ply their trade is to offer up tidbits of celebrity news and gossip or (supposedly) cost-free access to popular shows and movies, often through pop-up ads, emails or texts that show up while you're working or playing online. When you click on the links presented, your device is quickly installed with malware that may allow criminals access to your personal information and log-in information.
'Cybercriminals use consumers' fascination with celebrity culture to drive unsuspecting fans to malicious websites,' explains Baker Nanduru, VP of Consumer Endpoint Segment at antivirus software company McAfee. 'As consumers increasingly spend more time online, it's crucial that they stay vigilant about protecting their digital lives and a big part of that is being aware of and understanding the potential risks associated with their online activity.'
The good news? Forewarned is forearmed. Here are five facts that can help protect you and your family from such scams.
Everyone should view ads and news sites with a critical eye. The most savvy web surfers vet sources for credibility before clicking on ads for tabloid-like celebrity news or free-of-charge entertainment content. If the news sounds far-fetched or the offer seems too good to be true, it's more than likely fake. The safest course of action is to visit credible news sites, wait for official entertainment releases and use only legitimate streaming platforms.
Con artists know pop culture. Be aware that certain celebrities are used as clickbait more than others, probably because their lives are of particular interest to the demographic groups being targeted. Interestingly, a McAfee study this year found the 'most dangerous celebrity to search for' online this year to be actress Anna Kendrick. Other stars frequently used to lure people into online scams include Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy), Blake Lively, Jungkook, Mariah Carey, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Jimmy Kimmel, Julia Roberts and Kate McKinnon.
Cybersecurity software can help guard your privacy. A comprehensive security system like McAfee Total Protection offers another layer of heavy-duty protection against malware, phishing attacks and other nefarious threats in our increasingly online world. Further, McAfee's WebAdvisor features can alert you to the latest scams by notifying you about malicious websites as they're revealed.
You need to pay for what you use. It's in your best interest to avoid downloading suspicious MP3s and to use legitimate music streaming platforms, even if they come at a cost. Why? These days, many illegal downloads are riddled with malware or adware disguised as MP3 files.
Parental control software helps protect your kids. Because children have their own celebrity favorites, it's important that you set limits on their devices and use available controls to help minimize exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.
In a world of constantly evolving cyberthreats, it's important to do everything you can to protect your family's privacy and personal data. For more information about how to best guard your cybersecurity, talk to the experts at McAfee.