Malware infections in the US jumped 76% on Cyber Monday, a sign that malware makers are taking advantage of millions of shoppers going online for holiday deals. That's according to data released today by ESG, makers of the SpyHunter anti-malware software. Our experts analyzed hundreds of thousands of infection reports from computers across the US that have SpyHunter installed. We compared the average number of daily infections in the month leading up to Thanksgiving with the number of infections on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Cyber Monday. Our key findings are below.
ESG's Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving Weekend Malware Infection Rate
- Infections on Cyber Monday spiked 76.06% on Cyber Monday 2015. On Cyber Monday 2014 the spike was just 39.86%.
- This year we noticed an uptick in infections throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, a sign that more people were shopping online before Cyber Monday.
- According to our data, Sunday, November 29th, showed the biggest spike in infections, with a jump of 84.69%.
- In the five days since Thanksgiving, infections in the US are up 74.02%.
Surprisingly, it's not just the time around Cyber Monday when malware infections spike. Our data show that December is routinely the month with the most number of infections each year.
"The holiday shopping season is one of the busiest times of year for the cyber crooks who spread malware," said Patrick Morganelli, Senior VP of Technology at Enigma Software. "They know lots of people will be online looking for deals, and will be vulnerable."
It is inevitable that millions of Americans will take to the Internet to find the best deals for the holiday season. History teaches us a stern lesson to expect the worst in the upcoming season as it has yet again this year.
Malicious Techniques Used by Cybercrooks During the Holiday Shopping Season
Here are some of the most common ways that cybercrooks use the holiday shopping season to target computers for malware infections:
- Spam emails with links promising great deals. Malware makers know that people will be on the lookout for great prices on everything from Xboxes to smartphones. They'll send bogus emails promising super-low prices, and those emails will contain links that can install malware if they are clicked. The bad guys will also post malicious links in Facebook and Twitter accounts that they hijack.
- Fake emails that look like they are from real online retailers. Cybercrooks know it's likely you've bought something online from large retailers like Amazon or Toys R Us. In knowing this, they send fake emails that tell you there was a problem with your recent order, hoping you'll click on a link that will install malware.
- Poisoned search results. Sophisticated cybercrooks can create fake web pages promising to sell popular holiday items at very low prices. They can even work to make those pages show up in Google searches for particular products. If someone clicks over to the bogus page, an infection is just a few seconds away.
"These crooks know that people are looking for good deals, and are most likely in a hurry when checking emails and doing Google searches," Morganelli says. "And the infections they are creating are more diabolical than ever."
Malware infections today are far more than the simple nuisances of that past that slowed down your computer. Some of the more common infections today can steal personal information, access your contacts and important files, and in some cases literally hold your computer hostage until you pay a ransom to unlock it.
Below is a list of the largest cities in the U.S. that we saw a spike in malware infections this year compared to Cyber Monday last year.
Malware Spikes During Cyber Monday 2015 Found in 20 of U.S. Largest Cities
Cyber Monday 2015 Infection Change vs. Prior Month
Holiday Shopping Tips to Shop Safely and Securely Online
The ESG research team offer these tips to help protect against malware infections during the holiday season:
- Never click on links in social media messages. This includes Twitter direct messages and messages sent to you via Facebook. They may look like they are coming from your friends, but there's a good chance their account has been compromised and crooks are trying to trick you.
- Be wary of unfamiliar websites that ask you to install software before continuing with your shopping. Most of the time such software has malware embedded in it.
- Always have reliable anti-spyware and anti-malware software installed (we obviously recommend SpyHunter), and make sure to run frequent scans and updates.
- If you are trying to check on the status of an online order, type the website of the retailer into your address bar manually to log in and check. Don't trust a link sent in an email.
With every holiday season comes a bout of criminals looking to capitalize on vulnerable shoppers through sneaky tactics launched over the Internet. Additionally, every holiday season brings about new record numbers of victimized online shoppers. The best approach to protecting yourself this holiday season is to take proactive measures and heed to the warnings to avoid dealing with the serious repercussions that can range from stealing money out of your banking account to identity theft. Don't let cybercrooks steal your joy this holiday season.