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Don’t fall prey to cyber crimes this holiday season

While the year 2014 saw a slew of breakthrough technology advances, the sophistication and number of cyber threats across the world grew as well. 

Towards the end of the year, the entertainment industry was rocked by what could be termed as one of the biggest cyber attacks. Sony Pictures Entertainment was subjected to a series of attacks that led to a shutdown of the company’s computer systems and revealed employees’ personal information such as salaries, addresses and social security numbers. For over two weeks, a group called ‘Guardians of Peace’ released leaked information about Sony almost every day. 

As festive wishes start flooding inboxes, here’s a list based on security software firm McAfee’s annual “12 Scams of the Holidays” report that could help avoid cyber crimes. 

Unwanted e-cards: Digital cards are a breakthrough when it comes to convenience in sharing greetings with friends and family. However, while you wish your loved ones a happy new year, there may be several hackers waiting to wish you a ‘Merry Malware’. 

“Well-known e-card sites are safe, but be wary of potential scams that cause you to download malware onto your device,” says McAfee.

Online shopping: With buyers increasingly taking to e-commerce for shopping, cyber threats disguised as discount vouchers and sale brochures are a risk throughout the year. During holiday and festive season, with buyers looking to avail these offers more than on any other days, it’s an even bigger threat. Watch carefully before you fall for a deal. 

There are no free lunches: If an advertisement or offer looks too good to be real, it might well be unreal! 

“Everyone is searching for steals and deals during the holidays. Keep your eyes peeled (and your wallet in check) when shopping online for this season’s most coveted products,” says McAfee. “Dangerous links, phony contests on social media, and bogus gift cards are just some of the ways scammers try to steal your personal information and ruin your holiday cheer.” 

Punishable charities: End of a year and festivities are times to reflect and share celebrations with the needy. But in this season of giving, don’t fall for spam and fake charities seeking your financial details through email or social media. 

Transactions that cost: Ensure checking credit card statements vigilantly to stay on top of unidentified transactions. You may have been cautious but point of sale malware can also lead to exposing credit card information. 

Mobile phone grinch: With technology advancing, especially in the space of mobile devices, you now have an application to remind you to drink water or control the temperature in your house or enhance your photographs. But among all these cool apps, there’s a need to be careful about the information you share while accessing these apps. 

“Even the most official-looking or festive apps could be malicious and access your personal information,” says McAfee. 

Travel scams: Year-end holidays are the best time to plan vacations. However, after arriving at a new location, one must run a check to be secure against any spyware that could access your information by logging into your devices. 


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