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Happy Holidays, Cyber-Crooks are Coming for You

Winter holidays are all about fun, family and, if we’re lucky, several inches of snow. After one of the most tumultuous years in recent history, in the shadow of a pandemic of biblical proportions, we’d say it’s about time we took a deep breath and a sip of eggnog.

We don’t want to ruin this for you, but December comes with one more test before your well-deserved break: increased cyber-criminal activity as the bad guys try to pocket your hard-earned Christmas gift money. As cyber-crime spikes off the charts, here are some tips to keep you and your dear ones safe.

Keep an eye on your payments

Online shopping has exploded during the lockdown and continues to set new year-over-year records as we approach the winter shopping season. Bad actors will take any opportunity to go for your money and will spare no effort to beat the record $30 BILLION loss they inflicted in 2019.

As holiday shopping intensifies, so does phishing and fraud. As we’re getting closer to Christmas, financial service and digital app payment users become increasingly targeted by cyber-crooks.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix. Simply install a security solution to filter your junk messages and enable two-factor authentication for all accounts that support it. Last, but not least, regularly go through your past transactions to spot irregularities, chargeback fraud or purchases you have not actually made.

Malware never gets out of fashion

While phishing compromises individual accounts, malware helps the bad guys take complete control of devices. Every hour, hackers create more than 20,000 new pieces of malware. By the time you’ve read this, almost 800 new threats have been launched at millions of potential victims around the world. These criminal tools can carry out numerous actions, from the infamous encryption of your precious data to attacking a bank or hospital and anything in between. Pay extra attention to spammy e-mails, as four out in 10 messages include a form of malware.

Romance for Christmas? Yes, but caution required.

Cyber-criminals have been diligently leveraging the social distancing measures and loneliness of citizens in isolation, with noticeable spikes during the winter holidays. In 2019, people reported losing $201 million to romance scams in the United States alone, a steep 40% increase from 2018.

On average, dating scams account for between 30 and 40 percent of global incoming spam and can inflict severe financial and emotional distress on victims.

Most of the times, victims are approached via dating sites, unsolicited e-mail, social networks or instant messaging platforms by people who purportedly are military, or businesspeople stationed overseas. They build a complicated story that always ends up with asking for money to cover an emergency, costs of an accident or travel arrangements so they can spend the holidays with you.

Travel plans? Take a second look.

As the holiday season approaches and pandemic restrictions get lifted, attackers may attempt to capitalize on everyone’s interest in taking a break and planning vacations. Consequently, spikes in travel-themed spam once again prove that threat actors are tuned in to their victims’ needs and interests, planning their messages and campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. In November, around three out of 10 of all the scanned spam emails were travel themed. Pay extra attention to offers too good to be true and always book your travel with an agency or operator you trust or that has a well-established reputation.

Holidays are the best time for sharing pleasant moments with family and friends, no matter where they are. Don’t let your first digital Christmas get stolen! See how we can help you stay safe during the holiday season and beyond.

About the author

Bitdefender

The meaning of Bitdefender’s mascot, the Dacian Draco, an ancient symbol that depicts a mythical animal with a wolf’s head and a dragon’s body, is “to watch” and to “guard with a sharp eye.” Like our mascot, we are committed to using Bitdefender Labs, our world-class research team, to vigilantly find and eradicate threats for our customers, and to use our platform for the larger good.