This year, cybercrime has evolved to new and more sophisticated levels — far beyond the days of phishing emails by "lawyers" who need to transfer millions of dollars to your account on behalf of a long-lost African uncle. So, what do you need to keep an eye out for as Christmas approaches?
Security firm McAfee releases its annual "12 Scams of the Holidays" list as the holiday season approaches. To begin, while phishing emails are a year-round nuisance, as the holiday season approaches, consumers may be more likely to click on legitimate-looking emails promising deals, discounts and sales. In addition, shipping notifications from trusted sources such as FedEx are often replicated by cybercriminals and malicious links created to look legitimate. Keep tabs on your deliveries, check the website address and go to the legitimate website through a browser rather than email if you need to track a shipment.
There's no such thing as a free lunch, and the likelihood of an e-commerce website being able to offer you Christian Louboutin shoes for 95 percent off or a Boss suit for a few bucks is highly unlikely. When you're looking for this year's most coveted products, keep your eyes peeled and be wary of phoney competitions on social media, dodgy-looking links sent through an email and bogus gift cards.
Christmas is the time of giving, and many consumers will use the season to donate to their favorite charity. However, it is also prime time for cybercriminals to trick you into donating — to a fund outside of your chosen charity. Be wary of fake charities or pleas for help shared through emails and social media — especially if some kind of disaster is covered by the media. It is emotionally charged events and the season that cybercriminals will use to lure you in.
Sadly, there are some kinds of cybercrime you cannot protect yourself against. Point-of-sale (POS) malware, which hits retailers at the till, can lead to exposed credit card information. In these scenarios, the only thing you can do is keep an eye on your credit card statements and stay on top of security news.
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Apps, a crucial element of mobile technology, have exploded in popularity as more and more consumers adopt smartphones and tablets. However, as consumers became more interested, so have cybercriminals — and malicious apps are more frequently being used to steal data. Check out reviews first before downloading new apps, and take note of what permissions the app asks for.
Digital e-cards are flung across the web during Christmas, and while well-known e-card websites are fine, be wary of unknown senders or cards that ask you to download software.
Travel is often at a premium price when the holidays come around — and cybercriminals will take advantage of this by promoting fake travel deals across email, social networks and legitimate-appearing websites. Not only will some websites simply take your money, but clicking on malicious links may install spyware. It is also worth noting that free, public Wi-Fi networks available when you reach your destination are not secure by nature, and you need to make sure your PC is up to date and you ignore any prompts to download software you did not want or recognize.
Fake phone calls, which often take the guise of IT technicians (I'm from Microsoft and we've scanned your computer, you are infected, we need money to clean it up), can dupe the less tech-savvy among us. In addition, automated "security agents" state that a user account has been compromised and personal information will be requested — including a password — to unlock an account. These are fake and must be ignored, as no business will ask for such details on the phone.
ATM skimming — the practice of installing devices on cash machines that read the data on a card's magnetic strip — increases in frequency as Christmas comes calling. Either a camera or keypad overlay is often used to skim cards, so use your hand to cover which numbers you punch in and look carefully at the ATM before use.
Many news services send out "Year in review" features during the holiday season. However, some cybercriminals are known to target business email lists with industry-specific types that, unmasked, are phishing campaigns that could lead to malicious websites.
Christmas is here and the parties begin. Unsurprisingly, this is one time of the year when you'll hear at least one person bemoaning the loss of their smartphone while enjoying the bubbly. If you do, use a phone-tracking service such as Find my Phone on Android or Find my iPhone for Apple devices, and immediately change the passwords to any accounts connected to your mobile.
During the holiday season, you may see an increase in gift baskets from vendors who want to continue doing business with your company. One popular gift is branded USBs — but be aware that pre-installed malware may come installed on them.