SEO (search engine optimization) poisoning sounds like a serious problem, and it is. Basically, hackers make a bunch of malicious websites on a certain topic and then trick Google into pushing the sites up near the top of the search results for that topic.
When you search for the topic, you'll have a good chance of running into one of those sites. Once on the site, it will attack your computer looking for weak spots to slip a virus on to your system.
Or you might see a link to download pictures, video or a program. Of course, anything you download is going to be a virus.
One of hackers' favorite topics to use for SEO poisoning is celebrities - that's what a lot of people search for online. The most dangerous celebrity to search for changes every so often as fame grows and fades.
Anti-virus software company McAfee keeps track of the most dangerous celebrities and has released the list for 2014. So who took top honors this time around?
That singular honor goes to talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
If you search for him on Google, you have a 20% chance of ending up on a malicious site.
I've posted some of his hilarious videos on my site in the past - click here if you missed them.
The other top 5 most dangerous celebrities are Armin van Buuren (DJ/Music producer), Ciara (singer), Flo Rida (rapper) and Bruce Springsteen ("The Boss").
McAfee doesn't just score real people though. If you're thinking of searching for "Superman," you have a 16.5% chance of landing on a malicious site.
If you want to avoid SEO poisoning, there are a few rules to follow:
- From a search page, only click on sites you recognize or ones that cover more than just that one topic. If you're looking for celebrities, stick to their official websites.
- Make sure your computer's operating system, security software and browser are up to date. This will close most holes a malicious site could exploit.
- Don't download anything from a site that isn't reputable.
- Install a browser plugin like Web Of Trust that flags sites as safe or dangerous before you click.
Stay safe and happy searching!