Cyber criminals capitalizing on deal-seeking shoppers

Security safeguards should be reviewed before the online shopping rush.

Successful cyber criminals make a habit of studying patterns in online user behavior so that they will know how to attract the most attention and where to lay their traps. As the holiday shopping season begins in earnest, it seems as though hackers may already have a number of well-refined tactics in place.  According to CNET, cyber criminals have become increasingly interested in targeting deal-seeking consumers via group discount and coupon services such as Groupon and LivingSocial.

As the market for these services has become increasingly crowded in recent months, it has become harder for users to sort trash from treasure in their inboxes – and that’s exactly what hackers are counting on. These clever cyber criminals are putting their coding skills to work by mimicking the message templates used by Groupon and others to cloak their malicious content.

The one saving grace, according to CNET, is that the vast majority of these attacks package their payloads in an email attachment. And although the title of the file may be enough to convince some users to click, those in the know should remember that the more reputable group discount services hardly – if ever – supply content as an attachment.

A safer holiday shopping season
Although security experts have now shined a light on these malicious schemes, it probably won’t be enough to deter cyber criminals from laying their bait at even greater volume during the holiday shopping rush. By continuing with the coupon service disguise, or migrating those same principles to separate phishing scams, hackers could make a serious profit off careless consumers in the coming weeks.

As a greater proportion of seasonal shopping takes place through digital channels than ever before, intelligent, layered security systems and practices have become essential ingredients of financial health.

According to Help Net Security, unsolicited emails should be the first signals that raise a red flag for consumers planning out their online shopping agenda. Poisoned search engine results and social media messaging could also be popular vehicles for cyber attacks.

Retaining an attitude of skepticism around deals that sounds too good to be true and hovering over links to make sure they point to legitimate sites are all worthwhile tips, according to the news source, but they are not enough. Firewalls must be activated and antivirus definitions must be up to date ensure the cleverly disguised threats you let inside the gates – or don’t see at all – are quickly identified and rooted out before they can do real harm.

Are you seeing a significant rise in online and mobile shopping this season? What are you doing to make sure sensitive information stays protected across every channel? Let us know in the comments section below.

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.