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Online shoppers to  warned on holiday cyberthreats

Data-stealing malware on the rise as consumers plan to buy more gifts online this year.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Online shoppers to warned on holiday cyberthreats

From phony emails to Facebook phishers, cybercriminals are casting a wide net to lure online hoppers this season. According to new research from Webroot  certain infections designed to steal personal information rose in the months leading up to the shopping season. Simultaneously, in a survey of consumers, Webroot found the majority (68 percent) plan to buy at least half of their gifts online this year, presenting cybercriminals with a larger target on Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. 

Surveying over 1,600 individuals,Webroot found the number of consumers planning to buy gifts online this season increased 46 percent from two years ago.The survey also revealed a number of behaviours that may put shoppers' personal and financial information at risk. Other key findings revealed that: Over half of respondents frequently, if not always, use search engines to find gifts online, about two in five (38 percent) trust  the first page of search results - a target for malicious links and twelve percent are likely to use a public wireless access point to shop online for gifts.

"Cybercriminals appear to be gearing up for a lucrative holiday season," said Mike Kronenberg, chief technology officer of Webroot's Consumer business. "A particularly concerning trend is an increase in phishing Trojans - which can steal credit card numbers, passwords and other information -- in the months leading up to November, just as people begin thinking about buying gifts. Remember that hackers don't take a holiday; be aware of how they operate and protect yourself."

The Webroot® Threat Research team has recorded a recent spike in certain phishing Trojans, including one which rose 73 percent since August. Called Trojan-Backdoor-Stinkbreath, it spreads via bogus emails bearing the names of shipping companies including FedEx, DHL, UPS and USPS - brands many shoppers expect to see this time of year.

Webroot has also detected a rise in attacks on social networks, which may pose a risk to consumers planning to use social media for researching gifts. Infections of the Koobface worm, which targets users of Facebook, Twitter and other networks, have jumped 15 percent since summer. Koobface is known to distribute fake security alerts and rogue antivirus products -- bogus malware infection warnings and malicious programs masquerading as legitimate security products - which trick victims into sharing information.

Webroot researchers also expect to see cybercriminals employ one of their most effective tactics - planting malicious links near the top of search engine results - to bait shoppers seeking hot deals on popular items. These malicious links also lead to fake alerts and rogue products, as well as other malicious payloads.

Finally, public wireless networks pose a risk to the 12 percent of survey respondents who plan to use  them while shopping online for gifts. Data thieves can modify their own laptops to mimic wireless access points in places such as airports or cafes, and capture passwords and other information as victims unwittingly connect to their fraudulent networks.
 

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