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Christmas: time to spread goodwill, cheer and internet viruses

According to Mark James, technical director with ESET, for many people Christmas is the season of goodwill, an opportunity to spend time with family and of course an excuse to eat and drink far too much.

"But for others it's a great excuse to spread spam, malware and internet viruses. Every year we see Christmas-related threats spring up – some are very sophisticated, whilst others rely on simple tried and tested techniques to access internet users' information", he said.

In its pre-Christmas advisory list, ESET has drawn up five issues to watch out for on the internet in the next few weeks.

Parcel delivery scams

A long-standing trick from hackers, says the company, is to send fake emails about a parcel being delivered. Emails will then request that the recipient hurry to the website to enter details to validate who they are so they can re-deliver. These websites are, of course, not authentic.

Deals that are too good to be true

If that online price for this year's must-have gift seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Hackers, says ESET, will always look to use enticing hooks to lure in victims so internet users should beware of online ads and online shops offering cut price deals.

Big sellers this year are likely to be consoles like Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect and Playstation Move – there is a high chance bogus emails will begin to circulate using these products, notes the IT security vendor.

Dangerous Christmas holiday downloads

E-mail and instant messaging (IM) services are awash with Christmas holiday-themed downloads for screensavers, jingles and animations. These, says ESET, are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses and other computer threats, especially when links come from an email or IM that appears to be from a friend or on Facebook.

Greeting cards – hoax emails

The holiday season always brings a flood of fake links for free Christmas cards from well-known companies, but once the links have been clicked on, they may ask to install extra video components to watch videos that contain malicious software.

Christmas Facebook threats (real and hoax)

Facebook is an effective way for hackers to virally spread malware and viruses. Malicious apps and links can spread like wild fire between 'friends' and Facebook 'groups.'

But, says ESET, as well as genuine threats, hoax viruses are also a problem. The most recent example is the hoax 'Christmas Tree App'. The message, spread via Facebook, warned users about a 'Christmas Tree App' virus when in fact there was no virus at all, it was just a hoax.

However, adds the IT security vendor, the act of spreading these types of messages is potentially quite damaging. Malware can be removed fairly easily but this type of wrong information can live on for months, if not years, because people think they are doing "the right thing" by alerting fellow users.

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