Cyber Monday Mythbusting

Security & Privacy

It’s Cyber Monday, and marketing companies expect online shoppers to flock to websites and apps in order to take advantage of holiday sales. And naturally, this causes concerns about what kind of risks people are taking when they shop online.

But F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan says any security warnings focusing on Cyber Monday are simply part of the hype. “Cyber Monday is no more or less safe than any other day of the year. People just expose themselves to more online threats when they do more stuff online, but that really has nothing to do with Cyber Monday. And people that tell you otherwise aren’t doing you any favors.”

So there you have it.

On the other hand, Sullivan does point out that holiday shoppers should beware of the extent to which they expose themselves while online shopping, which is becoming more popular during the holidays. Adobe is projecting an eleven percent increase in online spending during the holidays this year, amounting to a whopping 83 billion dollars. So that’s 83 billion dollars that will be up for grabs (compared to just 3 billion on Cyber Monday), so it’s naïve to think that criminals are just going to ignore the opportunity.

Last year, F-Secure Labs registered a sharp increase in ransomware detections during November and December, including a 300 percent increase in the Browlock police-themed ransomware family.

Sullivan published a recent blog post examining the Cryptowall ransomware family, which he says is prevalent during the holiday season but virtually disappears in early January – when people celebrating Orthodox Christmas in Russia begin their holidays.

One easy way to protect yourself from ransomware and other online threats while holiday shopping is to be conscious of the threat landscape. Its trends like these that Sullivan pays attention to, and warns others to do the same. “It would be safe to say that people should be worried about ransomware this holiday season, and probably through next year. I expect that we, or at least security researchers, will look back on 2016 as the year of extortion.”

For example, even though mobile device are now widespread and used by many people, they’re not necessarily good tools to use for making financial transactions while online shopping.

“I use an iPad running Freedome for the vast majority of my online browsing, which works great for me because it’s easy to use and I can bring it with me if I leave the house. And between the security benefits of a VPN and the relatively small amount of malware targeting iOS devices, I feel pretty confident in using it to casually window shop on different websites. But I always use a PC to make actual purchases. I trust that my PC is secure and the actual keyboard makes it easier to enter financial data.”

You can find more great advice on how to stay safe while online shopping here.

[Image by Atomic Taco | Flickr]

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