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.