Holidays Start with Malware Jolt

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 @ 03:11 PM gHale


While this may not come as a big surprise, but computer malware infections spiked 106 percent from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, a new report found.

This spike is the result of massive online activity from holiday shoppers combined with increased efforts by malware makers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers, according to data released Tuesday by anti-malware provider Enigma Software Group.

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Enigma looked at the average number of daily infections on its customers’ computers in the month leading up to Thanksgiving weekend, and compared that to the number of infections detected from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, typically the start of the holiday shopping season.

Enigma found infections in the U.S. jumped 106 percent over those four days, with Cyber Monday having the most infections, 118 percent above normal.  This year’s increase was higher than 2015, which was 84 percent and 2014, which was 42 percent.

“We believe the dramatic jump in infections is because of two main reasons,” said Enigma Software spokesperson Ryan Gerding. “First, any time there is a dramatic increase in online activity, we see an increase in infections, simply because there are more people doing more things online. Second, we know that malware makers take advantage of the holiday shopping season to prey on shoppers.”

Here are the most common ways bad guys use the holiday shopping season to target PCs for malware.

Spam emails and links promising great deals. Malware makers know people will be on the lookout for great prices on everything from gaming consoles to phones. They’ll send bogus emails promising super low prices. Those emails will contain links that can install malware if they are clicked. Attackers will also post bad links in Facebook and Twitter accounts that they hijack.

Fake emails that look like they are from real online retailers. Attackers know it’s likely you’ve bought something online from Amazon or Toys R Us. So they send fake emails that tell you there was a problem with your recent order, hoping you’ll click on a link that will install malware.

Poisoned search results. Sophisticated attackers can create fake web pages promising to sell hot holiday items at very low prices. They can even work to make those pages show up in Google searches for particular products. If someone clicks over to the bogus page, an infection is just a few seconds away.

“These cybercrooks know that people are looking for good deals, and are most likely in a hurry when checking emails and doing Google searches,” Gerding said. “And the infections they are creating are more diabolical than ever.”

Here is a breakdown of the change in infections for each day of the early holiday shopping season:
• Black Friday — 88.76 percent higher than the month prior
• Saturday the 26 — 106.19 percent higher than the month prior
• Sunday the 27 — 114.32 percent higher than the month prior
• Cyber Monday — 118 percent higher than the month prior

Crooks will be taking advantage of online shoppers through the holiday season, Enigma researchers said. In fact, in 2015, the busiest day for infections wasn’t Cyber Monday, it was two weeks later. So it’s important for shoppers to remain vigilant.

Click here for the full report.



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