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November 07, 2016

How to Avoid Malware this Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season delivers gifts to a wide range of recipients, including friends and family, the retail and shipping industries, and – increasingly – to hackers.

Indeed, Enigma Software Group reports that while malware infections increased 42 percent during the 2014 November/December shopping season, they reached 84 during the same time last year, and this kind of activity appears to be poised to continue its upward climb.

The biggest single days for infections in both years, according to Enigma Software Group, were two weeks after Cyber Monday (News - Alert). Also, there were more problems of this nature over Thanksgiving weekend last year as compared to the prior year, Enigma Software Group said, and it attributed that to more people shopping online prior to Cyber Monday.

The company also broke down malware attacks by city for 2015. The locales with the largest spikes in malware over the holiday shopping season last year were Nashville, Raleigh, New Orleans, Boston, Denver, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Columbus, and Memphis. Enigma Software Group also noted the ransomware, which has doubled since last year – and not just during the holidays – has been used in a growing share of holiday malware attacks.

This is all troubling, the company reminds us, because malware infections can allow unauthorized parties to access your contacts and files, hold your computer hostage until you pay ransom to free it, slow your computer, and steal personal information. One most common way these bad actors do that, Enigma Software Group says, is by emailing or putting links on social media which, when clicked on, install malware. Another way online criminals do their deeds is by creating fake Web pages promising great deals on hot holiday items and directing users to click for more information; again, clicking on the link allows for the installation of the malware.

To avoid these problems, Enigma Software Group suggests avoiding clicks on social media message links, not visiting unfamiliar websites that require you to install software to browse, installing anti-malware and anti-spyware software, and using the website url of retailers to check order statuses rather than using links sent via email.

Edited by Alicia Young

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