Cyber-Scrooges Overtime During Holiday Season, New Threats Hit Mobile, Email and the Web: McAfee

McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security technology company, has released findings from the company’s 2012 Holiday Shopping Study. The study, conducted online among over 1100 Indian adults by Harris Interactive, investigates the online habits and behaviors of Indians, including those who indicate that they will engage with the Internet and mobile devices while shopping this holiday season. McAfee also exposes the Top 12 Scams of Christmas that criminals plan to use to rip off consumers as they shop online this holiday season, in a press release.

While Indians are slowly getting accustomed to shopping online, and will do so in droves, they are also using their mobile phones for more of their everyday activities.

Shopping on the move:

· As 70% of those surveyed, plan to shop online this holiday season, a surprising 3 in 4 (71%) of them plan to use their mobile devices, and while aware of the risks, they are willing to give away their personal information if they can get something they value in return.

· Indian respondents scored the highest amongst all countries in terms of resorting to smart phones to purchase holiday gifts for others for end of year celebrations.

· Among those Indians planning on using smartphones and/or tablets to purchase gifts this holiday season, almost three fourths (72%) are specifically planning to use apps for shopping and/or banking during the holiday season; as such, mobile devices have proven irresistible to cybercriminals, and now they are targeting mobile users through malicious applications. The trend of high app usage is evident from the fact that 96% of the surveyed respondents used mobile apps. This was the highest number after Japan.

Concerned but ignorant and therefore, attack-prone-

· Compared to other countries, India ranks highest (67%) on the metrics of respondents worrying about personal information being stolen while using a mobile app on the smart phone or tablet.

· Despite the fact that 90% of Indian respondents owning a smartphone or tablet are at least somewhat concerned that their personal information could be stolen while using an app on a smartphone or tablet, an astounding 95% of them are willing to provide some level of personal information in order to receive an offer that is of value to them. India also scored highest on the ranking of sharing credit card details in order to receive such offers.

· Indians are also more likely to be a victim of a cyber scam. More than 23% of polled Indians have been victims and almost 25% of the polled Indians know someone who has been a victim

· 85% of the polled audiences believe that there is a risk to personal identity while using free Wi-Fi on a mobile devices but 41% of them still do so using their smart phones.

‘Tis the season for consumers to spend more time online – shopping for gifts. 40% of those Indians who plan on shopping online during the 2012 holiday season plan on using a personal computer to do so, and 50% will use a tablet (23%) and/or smartphone (38%). Here are the “12 Scams of Christmas,” the dozen most dangerous online scams to watch out for this holiday season, revealed today by McAfee.

1) Social media scams—Many of us use social media sites to connect with family, friends, and co-workers over the holidays, and the cybercriminals know that this is a good place to catch you off guard because we’re all “friends,” right? Here are some ways that criminals will use these channels to obtain shopper’s gift money, identity or other personal information:
· Scammers use channels, like Facebook and Twitter, just like email and websites to scam consumers during the holidays. Be careful when clicking or liking posts, while taking advantage of contests, ads and special deals that you get from your “friends” that advertise the hottest Holiday gifts (such as the new iPad Mini), exclusive discounts at local stores, holiday-related jobs postings, and your friends’ accounts being hacked and sending out fake alerts to all their “friends.”
· Twitter ads and special discounts for popular gifts are especially huge the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and utilize blind, shortened links, many of which could easily be malicious. Criminals are getting savvier with authentic-looking social ads and deals that take consumers to legitimate looking websites. In order to take advantage of the deals or contests, they ask them for personal information that can obtain a shopper’s credit card number, email address, phone number or home address.

2) Malicious Mobile Apps—As smartphone users we are app crazy, downloading over 25 billion apps[1] for Android devices alone! But as the popularity of applications has grown, so have the chances that you could download a malicious application designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.

3) Travel Scams—Before you book your flight or hotel to head home to see your loved ones for the holidays, keep in mind that the scammers are looking to hook you with too-good-to-be-true deals. Phony travel webpages, sometimes using your preferred company, with beautiful pictures and rock-bottom prices are used to get you to hand over your financial details.

4) Holiday Spam/Phishing—Soon many of these spam emails will take on holiday themes. Cheap Rolex watches and pharmaceuticals may be advertised as the “perfect gift” for that special someone.

5) iPhone 5, iPad Mini and other hot holiday gift scams—The kind of excitement and buzz surrounding Apple’s new iPhone 5 or iPad Mini is just what cybercrooks dream of when they plot their scams. They will mention must-have holiday gifts in dangerous links, phony contests (example: “Free iPad”) and phishing emails as a way to grab computer users’ attention to get you to reveal personal information or click on a dangerous link that could download malware onto your machine.

6) Skype Message Scare—People around the world will use Skype to connect with loved ones this holiday season, but they should be aware of a new Skype message scam that attempts to infect their machine, and even hold their files for ransom.

7) Bogus gift cards—Cybercriminals can’t help but want to get in on the action by offering bogus gift cards online. Be wary of buying gift cards from third parties; just imagine how embarrassing it would be to find out that the gift card you gave your mother-in-law was fraudulent!

8) Holiday SMiShing—“SMiSishing” is phishing via text message. Just like with email phishing, the scammer tries to lure you into revealing information or performing an action you normally wouldn’t do by pretending to be a legitimate organization.

9) Phony E-tailers– Phony e-commerce sites, that appear real, try to lure you into typing in your credit card number and other personal details, often by promoting great deals. But, after obtaining your money and information, you never receive the merchandise, and your personal information is put at risk.

10) Fake charities—This is one of the biggest scams of every holiday season. As we open up our hearts and wallets, the bad guys hope to get in on the giving by sending spam emails advertising fake charities.

11) Dangerous e-cards—E-Cards are a popular way to send a quick “thank you” or holiday greeting, but some are malicious and may contain spyware or viruses that download onto your computer once you click on the link to view the greeting.

12) Phony classifieds—Online classified sites may be a great place to look for holiday gifts and part-time jobs, but beware of phony offers that ask for too much personal information or ask you to wire funds via Western Union, since these are most likely scams.

“Using multiple devices provides the bad guys with more ways to access your valuable “Digital Assets,” such as personal information and files, especially if the devices are under-protected,” said Paula Greve, director at McAfee Labs. “One of the best ways for consumers to protect themselves is to learn about the criminals’ tricks, so they can avoid them. Beyond that they should have the latest updates of the applications on their devices in order to enjoy a safe online buying or other experience. We don’t want consumers to be haunted by the scams of holidays past, present and future – they can’t afford to leave the door open to cyber-grinches during the busy holiday season.”

“For the millions of consumers who plan to go online this holiday season to shop for the best deals, finalize travel plans and update their social channels, it’s important that they enjoy those activities safely by checking their security protection on their computers and mobile devices first,” said Venkatsubrahmanyam Krishnapur, Vice President- Engineering- Consumer and Small Businesses, McAfee.

“To keep their personal and financial information secure, it’s also important to be wary of offers that are too good to be true, not click on links or open attachments from people they don’t know or companies’ emails or sites that look suspect, and go directly to websites by typing their name in web address bar.”

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