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Christmas tech misery - more fraud, spam and viruses
by Will Sturgeon

'Bah' and, indeed, 'humbug'...

Christmas may be a time for festive cheer but users are being warned of a seasonal increase in fraud, phishing, spam and viruses which may well make for a miserable Yule time for the careless and the duped.


Whether it is people slipping into the careless habit of clicking on attachments after too much 'Christmas spirit', surfing websites they shouldn't once demob happy ahead of the holidays or taking advantage of empty offices to commit fraud on the network, the risk of some nasty surprises over the festive season is high.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: "Opening joke programs, screensavers, and electronic greetings cards increases the risk of virus infection at any time but can prove to be a particular problem during the holiday season when it is all too easy to let your guard slip and leave yourself open to attack."

Natasha Staley, information analyst at MessageLabs, said: "It's the season of goodwill and offices are more relaxed. Companies are less strict on things like email and internet use."

Staley added that spam may also prove to be more of a problem at Christmas than at other times throughout the year. Though specific Christmas themed spam is still low on the radar, she said other campaigns, such as the Rolex spam are also being tailored to fit the season. "We've seen emails which say things like 'buy your man a Rolex this Christmas'," she said. Other large scale spam campaigns, such as the speed camera spam, would also appear to have a seasonal angle.

David Martin, managing consultant at LogicaCMG, told silicon.com Christmas is also likely to bring an increase in corporate fraud on companies' networks.

"All crime is a combination of ability, motivation and opportunity and I think it is fair to say at Christmas the opportunity is far greater.

"The moment people's guards are down, perhaps if they've enjoyed a Christmas lunch, the chance of individuals committing criminal acts increases," he said.

Similarly while offices are left empty and unattended for lunches, drinks, parties and the holidays the window of opportunity grows considerably.

LogicaCMG's Martin added that users must also ensure they are cautious when opening their return to the office after Christmas. Faced with thousands of emails they may be tempted to not be as thorough as normal when sorting through it, he said.

And it's not just online where users could be exposing themselves to risk. Even shopping on the high street consumers could be increasing the risks.

Sophos' Cluley said: "It's also worth being cautious if you're thinking of buying a PC as a present this Christmas. Many PCs available on the high street come with software which was produced many months before, so their security patches are out of date."

"Similarly antivirus software, often bundled with a home computer, is unlikely to provide out-of-the-box protection for recent viruses, he said. "With more than 1,300 new viruses identified in November alone, protection that is just a couple of months old could seriously compromise computer security."

The other high street threat is that posed by pirated software. Dodgy shops or market stalls offering compelling deals on big name software from the likes of Adobe or Microsoft are unlikely to run much quality control. As such an unsuspecting shopper buying for themselves or a friends or relative has no guarantees about what exactly they are installing on their machines.

Siobhan Carroll, regional manager Northern Europe at the Business Software Alliance, said: "Unfortunately many people don't realise that counterfeit software may contain all sorts of malicious codes. You might think you are getting a good deal by buying through an online auction site or a market stall but you could be unwittingly buying software with bugs, viruses, spyware and all manner of security threats."


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by Will Sturgeon 'Bah' and, indeed, 'humbug'... Christmas may be a time for festive cheer but users are being warned of a seasonal increase in fraud, phishing, spam and viruses which may well make for a miserable Yule time for the careless and the duped. Whether it is people slipping into the careless habit of clicking on attachments after too much 'Christmas spirit', surfing websites they shouldn't once demob happy ahead of the holidays or taking advantage of empty offices to...
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