A recent report from McAfee claimed that “Emma Watson” is the most dangerous thing to click on when on-line. The report also goes on to claim that other celebrities, including Halle Berry, Eva Mendes, Jessica Biel, and even Jimmy Kimmel. The report claims that one out of eight times someone clicks on the name of the actress who is famous for playing Hermione Granger in the the Harry Potter movies has something bad happen to their computer.
That pales in comparison to the most dangerous word to click on. While clicking on one of those celebrity names might get you into trouble 12.5% of the time, there is a word that will get you into trouble far more often. My recent informal study showed it was over 90% of the time.
That word is: “recommended”. The scariest word in the English language when it comes to computers.
As a computer tech I see it every day (or on average once per day). People call me because they think that their computer has a virus. It is running slow, crashing or worse, and they don’t know what they did. They get warnings popping up that their computer has a problem. Their search results are not as good as they once were.
The vast majority of the time, when you see the word “recommended” (or a permutation of it, including “Next”) on a product installation or a web site, it means that it is recommended for them — not for you. If you click on “recommended”, they make more money. And if you keep clicking on “recommended”, as a tech, eventually I make more money.
Many sites that involve activities that make us feel guilty (such as porn or torrent sites) or worried (computer problem solving or malware information sites) capitalize on the fact that we are being flooded with signals from our lizard brain to make us jump to an inappropriate action. If you see “WARNING! We have detected serious problems with your computer. Click here to fix it.” you don’t actually have a problem (until you click).
Never download anything you didn’t go to get. If a web site advises “Before installing our software we recommend you check your system for errors” they are trying to scam you.
Don’t think it’s just the shady operators that you need to watch out for. Big names like Symantec, Oracle, HP, Microsoft, Adobe, McAfee, Logitech to name just a few are among the offenders. Big web sites like Google, CNet and others do it too.
There are too many examples to list fully, and I have broken this post into multiple pages to accommodate all of the examples here but even so, these are mere examples of what is so common that when writing this I could not stop finding new cases.