You might think that the busiest day for malware infections would by Cyber Monday, the first Monday following Thanksgiving when many online retailers have special sales. But in 2016, the busiest day was Wednesday December 14th, with infections 120.06% higher than normal.
November and December are typically very busy months for computer malware infections, and an increase in online holiday shopping is the most likely culprit. The National Retail Federation estimates that online holiday sales will increase 11-15% this year. Every online click is an opportunity for cyber crooks to get harmful programs installed on your computer. And this year, even more sophisticated email phishing attacks could spell even more trouble; attacks that hack your computer by tricking you into thinking you’ve already been hacked.
Black Friday Computer Infections Are On The Rise
Enigma Software Group, makers of the SpyHunter anti-malware program, found that last year infections on its customer’s computers jumped 99.23% from Black Friday through Christmas. That was a bigger spike than in 2015 (84%) and 2014 (42%). So that trend could continue and even spike higher online as holiday sales increase this year.
Alarmingly, more sophisticated email phishing attacks could trick many online shoppers as malware makers are preparing to steal data and money to unsuspecting or unprepared consumers. This year, newly designed email phishing attacks could spell even more trouble; attacks that hack a computer by tricking you into thinking you’ve already been hacked. In the past, phishing emails like this were easy to catch. They often had poor formatting and misspelled words. They just looked fake. But now these emails look very real.
“We’ve seen fake emails like this that purport to be from PayPal, Apple, Etsy, and others,” says Enigma spokesperson Ryan Gerding. “The malware makers know that this time of year, people may be expecting emails from these retailers, and may be more likely to click on a link.”
How to Avoid Getting Hacked This Holiday Season
The best way to protect yourself from these email attacks is to NEVER click on a link in an email from an online retailer. If you believe there is a problem with an order you made, or if an email looks legit but contains information on a purchase you didn’t make, your best bet is to log directly into your Apple, Amazon, PayPal or other account directly from your web browser.
Here are some other tips from Enigma Software to keep your computer safe this holiday season and beyond.
- Make sure your computer’s operating system is up-to-date, and is scheduled to install updates automatically.
- Have up-to-date security and anti-malware software (such as SpyHunter) installed and make sure to run frequent scans and updates.
- Never click on links in suspicious or unsolicited emails. Sometimes, emails may appear to come from a legitimate source but are, in fact, spam and may contain malicious links.
- Be wary of unfamiliar websites that ask you to install software before continuing with your shopping. Unwanted or unfamiliar sites may have malicious scripts or links.
- Be cautious of links found in social media messages. Such links include those found on Twitter direct messages and messages sent to you via Facebook. Potentially malicious messages may look like they are coming from your friends, but there’s a good chance their account has been compromised and cybercrooks are attempting to trick you.
According to Enigma Software Group, in 2016 the individual cities with the highest spike in malware infections during the holiday season were Kansas City, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Raleigh, and Miami.