Bad Santa: Holiday Malware “Gifts”

Internet Security Update  from PC Prima:

Just as retailers are preparing for the influx of online shopping in time for the holidays, cyber criminals are launching a growing amount of email-borne malware attacks aimed at less tech-savvy online shoppers, according to recent Google research.

Google studied spam email during the third quarter this year. Although overall spam was down from the previous quarter, the study showed a 10 percent increase from the same period last year.  Officials attribute much of the overall decline to increased government pressure on cyber crime.

A recent case in Russia eradicated the world’s leading email spam provider, Spamit.com, bringing the global spam count down significantly. Spamit.com was the backbone for most spammers, offering a service that sold code and email spam tools to bombard inboxes with false pharmaceutical messages. After Russian authorities launched the investigation, the website’s ringleader went missing and is believed to have fled the country.

Also, an international sting on botnets has eliminated some of the most dangerous spam attacks in the world. More than 100 cyber criminals in Europe and the U.S. were arrested last month, temporarily eliminating the source for the massively successful Zeus botnet.

However, the profit potential for scamming the vast number of unsuspecting, and typically uneducated, internet users that shop online before the holidays was too much for cyber criminals to ignore. Google’s research indicates that new scams have emerged to replace those that have been arrested, and new techniques will make email spam and viruses more elusive.

“New botnets have sprung up to take their place. And, if the volume of spam was lower, it was also dirtier than in 2009,” a Kaspersky Labs report reads. “That may indicate a push to build out bot networks in advance of the holiday season, when many users go online to purchase gifts, and spammers are more likely to find success pushing their own wares.”  PC Prima, a German anti-malware provider, reports that this international problem requires constant attention and updates to existing internet security solutions.

Among the new trends include using  recycled emails for spam messages carrying malware. According to the research, this trend has been successful because spam filters on most email products use an automated system to recognize text typically found in spam messages. By using emails that were initially used for other purposes, spam messages get their messages around these roadblocks, attaching a malicious link to target an unsuspecting user.

Other, more recent research has found that Google is cracking down on email borne cyber crime. Web Host Industry Review studied Google’s response to an influx of malicious sites, revealing a more strict policy on malicious sites found on the company’s search engine.

“To this end, we’re finding that Google is putting sites on the black list for a longer period of time,” Jason Remillard, founder and president of the Web Host Industry Review, wrote on the company’s website. “We’re seeing the same results with the other SEs and the requisite browser instances of the blacklist tables.”

Because cyber criminals have evaded international legal authorities’ anti-malware efforts, they are just as likely to avoid Google’s restrictions. To safely shop online this holiday season, security experts advise consistently updating antivirus software to protect against the latest cyber crime developments.

To update your anti-virus software, visit Clutter Free PC, or try our new German internet security solution, PC Prima.

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