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Many internet users fall prey to clickbait diet and fitness ads even if they think the websites advertised might be harmful to their online security, Intel study finds.iStock

We have all seen those familiar flashy fitness and diet tips advertisements lining the sides of our web browsers that promise the perfect body in time for summer – including "amazing tips for a flat belly", magic diet herbs, pills and other dodgy-looking fitness solutions. But a new study commissioned by Intel Security has found that many internet-savvy users click on these promotional ads for a diet programme to lose weight and risk their online security.

In April 2016, Intel Security commissioned MSI International to conduct a study to examine the online attitude and behaviour of 15,000 American consumers between the ages of 21 to 54. Titled, Online Security Diet: You Are What You Click, the study found that as summer approaches, many people looking to start a new diet or fitness routine often search online for quick, sure-fire solutions to achieve their weight loss goals.

Looking to exploit this urgency, malicious cyber criminals create phishing campaigns, malware embedded emails, online adsand other links to prey on human naivety.

"Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly savvy at understanding the seasonality of consumer search habits and exploiting that information to their full potential," said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security. "As such, it is increasingly important people understand safe online searching behavior and how to identify potentially risky sites and emails. This is why we continue to invest in ongoing education efforts to reinforce strong habits that help consumers enjoy safer online experiences."

According to the study, more than half of the people surveyed, said they are willing to share their full name (51%), email address (65%) or age (50%) with a website, company or service, for fitness or diet tips. While 57% of the respondents said they would likely click on a promotional link for a diet programme before the summer, 61% reported that they already have done so in the past.

About 37% of respondents said they are more likely to click on a promotional link or article offering dietary tips if it featured or was endorsed by a celebrity.

"The truth is, today, people still take many risks for beauty and health's sake," Davis wrote in a blog post. "Whether due to naiveté, or a burning desire for an ideal body, people are making themselves vulnerable."

Davis urged internet users to browse safely, use antivirus software and learn how to identify possible risky emails and sites saying, "If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is."

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