Monday, 25 November 2019 10:27

Online shoppers warned to beware of scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Online shoppers warned to beware of scams on Black Friday and Cyber Monday Image by Manuel Alejandro Leon from Pixabay

Security firm RiskIQ, which closely tracks incidences of online shopping sites being compromised, has put out a study in which it claims that Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two big online shopping days, are sure to be in the sights of cyber criminals.

The company has produced two reports, one relevant to the US and the other to the UK, and points out that while the US spent US$6.2 billion over the Black Friday weekend in 2018, an increase of 23.6% over 2017, UK consumers splashed out £1.49 billion, a rise of 7.2%.

"Bad holiday actors will capitalise by using the brand names of leading e-tailers, as well as the poor security habits of consumers," report authors Steven Pon and Jordan Herman wrote.

"They’ll fool shoppers looking for Black Friday deals, sales, and coupons by creating fake mobile apps and landing pages. These malicious assets trick users into downloading malware, using compromised sites, or giving up their login credentials and credit card information."

Pon and Herman said the company's researchers had run a keyword query of their global blacklist and mobile app database, looking for the 10 most trafficked e-commerce sites over the weekend.

Domain infringements and phishing events for each of these e-tailers were examined, as also the appearance of their branded terms alongside "Black Friday", "Cyber Monday", "Christmas" and "Boxing Day" in blacklisted URLs.

Following this, 1000 US consumers and an equal number in the UK were asked about their online shopping habits.

Much of the potential damage came from mobile apps that were built to fool users into giving away their credit card details, the authors said.

"Some fake apps contain adware and ad-clicks or malware that can steal personal information or lock the device until the user pays a ransom," they added.

"Others encourage users to log in using their Facebook or Gmail credentials, potentially exposing sensitive personal information."

They observed a 20% increase in the total of blacklisted apps; the number of blacklisted apps rose from 1.95% to 2% of the total. And of all the apps that could be found by using the search terms “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, “Boxing Day”, or “Christmas”, 951 or 2% were blacklisted.

Similar threats also existed on the Web, RiskIQ said, pointing out that Adobe had predicted the online holiday spend would cross US$140 billion, with Cyber Monday setting a record of US$9.4 billion.

"A query of the branded terms of 20 Fortune 100 companies in RiskIQ’s domain infringement detection once revealed 37,000 probable instances of domain infringement over a two-week period or 1850 incidents per brand," Pon and Herman said.

The RiskIQ reports also have plenty of tips on how consumers can protect themselves against these threats. They are available here after free registration.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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