Business IQ

Steer clear of net nasties this christmas

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Think twice before opening that digital Christmas card or clicking on that festive looking link, internet security experts and consumer authorities warn.

That animated Santa Claus e-card or email from the courier asking you to collect a parcel may look innocent enough, but it could have the potential to ruin your Christmas.

Daniel Kadane product specialist for security software maker Kaspersky Lab, explained that hackers take advantage of the holiday season to catch consumers unaware and plant malicious software on their computers.

“Cyber criminals as a whole tend to target their attacks depending on the time of the year. Heading up to the Christmas period one thing they tend to focus on is either phishing or spam attacks around online shopping. We see a huge spike around this time of year,” Daniel explained.

He says the aim is to lure unsuspecting consumers to websites capable of infecting their computers with malware designed to compromise their private data. These so-called ‘drive-by’ attacks often go undetected by victims leaving them vulnerable to divulging internet banking details.

Christmas criminal Christmas present

Held ransom by hackers

During the Christmas holiday season, the fraudulent spam emails frequently exploit the brands of trusted online shopping sites and courier services.

Ty Miller, founder of computer security consultancy Threat Intelligence said one of the most worrying developments was the rise of so-called ‘ransomware’ – malware that effectively locks the victim’s computer data in a virtual vault that can’t be opened unless the victim pays a fee.

“Those emails tend to be distributed seasonally so coming up to Christmas you’re probably going to see emails from [a courier] saying that they have a package waiting and to click a link to get details,” says Ty.

There is also another prevalent form of malware that is capable of intercepting internet banking sessions that collects login credentials and credit card information.

“It’ll actually re-write your internet banking page so that it will collect your username and password, and sometimes it may inject new fields to collect your credit card number,” he warned.

More than just emails

However, the potential to come to digital grief over Christmas didn’t stop at emails. Animated e-cards and even free mobile phone games could also comprise consumers, Ty warned.

Consumers should pay close attention to the party sending the email containing the link and “make sure it’s coming from a trusted party and even check that the wording looks like it’s coming from the person who purportedly sent it,” he explained.

In recent years the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received hundreds of complaints about scams that resulted in financial losses reaching well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

Looking or more ways to protect your digital presence?

Read about the importance of cyber security.

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