Protecting your holiday season from festive hacks

Protecting your holiday season from festive hacks
Protecting your holiday season from festive hacks

With the Christmas and New Year festive season looming ahead, many families and individuals are taking the rare opportunity to enjoy some well-deserved break from the gruelling monotony of work. With people travelling on holidays, going online to shop for that perfect Christmas gift for their loved ones, or just whiling away their free time on social media, this festive period also represents an open season for cyber-criminals. To help you better understand the fundamentals of an incident-free Christmas and New Year, Kaspersky has provided some tips for you to take note of.

According to Kaspersky’s Q3 Malware Threats Report, Kaspersky detected 870,617 malicious mobile installation packages globally, a 33% drop when compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Similarly, attempted malware infections that aimed to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 197,559 user computers, a 35% decline as compared to the same quarter in 2018.

Closer to home, most countries in Southeast Asia also saw an improvement in terms of the number of ransomware detected, with the exception of the Philippines, which rose 8 places from 2018 to place 73rd globally for the most number of ransomware detections. For Singapore, the city-state improved by 26 positions to be placed 126th out of approximately 200 countries. While such statistics may paint a rosy picture that all is well, the possibility of us getting hacked increases as we get lost in the frenzy of merrymaking.

What are some of the instances where we might lower our guard during this festive season? For the avid traveler, Wi-Fi access is often key as they look to navigate a city’s hotspots for food, entertainment, shopping, as well as documenting their travel journey online. In a recent survey, 70% of tablet owners and 53% of smartphone/mobile phone owners stated that they use public Wi-Fi hotspots. However, data sent on public networks are susceptible to being intercepted by cyber-criminals and users risk having their personal information, digital identity and money stolen.

The Christmas sale season is also a particularly lucrative period for both retailers and cybercriminals alike, as consumers look to shop online during this season of giving and thanks. For example, many often fall prey to phishing email scams, lured by ‘too good to be true’ promotions. These emails are often fraudulent and contain malicious software in an attachment. Additionally, hackers often resort to password stealing ware to sabotage users’ privacy. Such tools are able to grab data directly from users’ web browsers using various methods, leading to the theft of access details for online accounts as well as financial information. Given the popularity of e-commerce, there is a need for users to maintain higher levels of vigilance when it comes to online shopping.

Another area of concern pertains to the social media space, where Kaspersky’s Global Privacy Report released earlier this year found that 22% confessed that they share their social media details to find out the results of fun quizzes while 18.9% admitted they will disregard their privacy if they’ll get something for free, such as a software, service or gift. These statistics highlight that regardless of the alluring effect created by the festive marketing machine, or whether users are just passing their free time on social media, there is much potential for data misuse if users do not safeguard their digital privacy.

“With the long break which we can spend with our family and friends to travel and relax, this holiday season is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year. Let us keep it that way by keeping our guards up as we enjoy this season. It is the time where shopping online increases and posting on social media is on the rise. It is also worth noting that a lot of employees may be travelling with their corporate laptops and mobile phones, working remotely to avoid work emails from piling up. These mean additional opportunities for cybercriminals to wage their own holiday campaigns. We encourage everyone to practice basic good online habits throughout this break to keep these crooks out of their way,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

To stay safe during the Christmas and New Year period, Kaspersky recommends:

  • Avoid purchasing from websites that appear suspicious or flawed, no matter how great their promotion deals are
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links you receive in emails or social media messages, even from people you know, unless you were expecting the message
  • Double-check the email address of the sender. If it is not the official brand’s website domain, do not click on the link
  • Chose payment processing services that use multifactor authorisation of purchases, if available
  • Use a dedicated security solution on your device, with built-in features to create a secure environment for all financial transactions and prevent fraud, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud and Kaspersky Internet Security.
  • Try to verify if the public Wi-Fi network is a legitimate connection. Malicious users often set up bogus links with a connection link that is deliberately similar to the venue that is offering free Wi-Fi. If you can speak with an employee at the location that’s providing the public Wi-Fi connection, ask for information about their legitimate Wi-Fi access point — such as the connection’s name and IP address.
  • Use a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network as the VPN will encrypt all your data that passes through the network.
  • Do not share passwords or personal information with friends or family as they could unwittingly make them vulnerable to malware. Do not post them on forums or social media channels.
  • Start using reliable security solution like Kaspersky Password Manager that is designed to securely store passwords and personal information, including passports, driver’s licenses and bank cards.
  • Always install updates and product patches to ensure protection from the latest malware and threats.