NEW YORK - Looking for information about Brad Pitt or Beyonce on the Web? It could be risky.
An internet security firm has dubbed the actor and singer the most dangerous celebrities to search for on the Internet because cybercriminals use their names to lure victims.
California-based McAfee Inc. said fans searching for information and pictures of Pitt, or downloads, wallpaper and screen savers, have an 18 percent chance of having their PCs infected with a virus, spyware, spam, phishing and adware.
"Cybercriminals employ numerous methods, yet one of the simplest but most effective ways is to trick consumers into infecting themselves by capitalizing on Americans' interest in celebrity gossip," explained Jeff Green, senior vice president of McAfee's Product Development & Avert Labs.
"Tapping into current events, pop culture or commonly browsed sites is an easy way to achieve this," he added in a statement.
Web surfers looking for celebrity gossip, screen savers and ringtones are often directed to fake Internet sites that look legitimate but pose a risk to the security of their computers, according to the company.
Pitt and singer Justin Timberlake are the most dangerous men to search for on the Internet, while Beyonce and Heidi Montag, the star of the reality television show "The Hills," top the list for women.
Other celebrities on McAfee's most dangerous list include singers Mariah Carey, Rihanna and Fergie and film stars Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz and George Clooney.
Green said Americans' obsession with following celebrities' lifestyles make them obvious targets.
"We have to take precautions in casually navigating the Web since many subtle sites may be rife with malware for consumers' computers," he said, referring to software designed to infiltrate computer software without the consent of the owner.
Malware includes viruses, worms and spyware, which are computer programs that report back to a third party a user's activity and Web-surfing habits.
The reasons for planting spyware range from simple marketing purposes to more serious things like stealing files or passwords used to access sensitive financial information.
Celebrity searchers can also be used for phishing, an attempt to get sensitive information by masquerading as an entity that is known to be reputable.
Searches for soccer star David Beckham and actresses Katie Holmes, Lindsay Lohan and Katherine Heigl are also risky and have a good chance of infecting computers, the company said.