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Steer clear of online threats this Christmas

Krishan Sharma
Technology Journalist

Krishan Sharma is a freelance journalist who writes for various consumer tech and business IT publications

Krishan Sharma
Technology Journalist

Krishan Sharma is a freelance journalist who writes for various consumer tech and business IT publications

Think twice before opening that digital Christmas card or clicking on that festive-looking link, information security experts and consumer authorities warn.

That animated Santa Claus e-card or email from the courier asking you to collect a parcel may look innocent enough, but it could have the potential to ruin your Christmas.

Daniel Kadane product specialist for cyber security software maker Kaspersky Lab, explains that hackers take advantage of the holiday season to catch consumers unaware and plant malicious software on their computers.

“Cyber criminals, as a whole, tend to target their cyber threat attacks depending on the time of the year. Heading up to the Christmas period one thing they tend to focus on is breaking through a company's computer security with either phishing or spam attacks around online shopping. We see a huge spike around this time of year...”

He says the aim is to lure unsuspecting consumers to websites capable of infecting their computers that dont have adequate cyber protection with malware designed to compromise their private data. These so-called ‘drive-by’ attacks often go undetected by victims leaving them vulnerable to divulging internet banking details.

Christmas criminal Christmas present

Held ransom by hacker attacks

During the Christmas holiday season, fraudulent spam emails frequently exploit the brands of trusted online shopping sites and courier services with ransomeware.

Ty Miller, founder of computer security consultancy Threat Intelligence said one of the most worrying developments in cyber protection was the rise of so-called ‘ransomware’. Randsomeware attacks involve - malware that locks the victim’s computer data in a virtual vault that can’t be opened unless the victim pays a fee.

“Spam 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 ransomware 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.

Beyond phishing emails

The potential for digital grief over Christmas doesn’t stop at phishing emails. Animated e-cards and even free mobile phone games can also comprise consumers’ information security.

Consumers should pay close attention to who is sending the potential spam email containing the link. Always “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) had received hundreds of complaints about phishing and scam emails that resulted in financial losses reaching well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Stay on top of your cyber security

Ensure that your business hasn’t been compromised by chatting to the experts using Telstra’s Tech Enquiry.

 

Don’t let criminals scam you this Christmas.

Take Telstra’s cyber security quiz to find out how safe you are.

Find out moreDon’t let criminals scam you this Christmas.

Originally published December 22nd 2014. Updated August 1st 2019.

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