The Leading Ways Cybercriminals Target Consumers and Businesses During the Holidays

Holiday Cyber Scams

As the holiday season is now upon us, everyone is starting to get in the spirit. Decorations are going up, shopping malls are getting busy and gifts are being wrapped. However, unfortunately, the holidays have a tendency to bring out the worst in some people – especially cybercriminals who prey on others for their own gain.

Every year, around this time, reports of hacks and scams skyrocket. Cybercrooks do whatever they can to take advantage of the chaotic holiday shopping environment in order to trick and rob unsuspecting victims. This is easy in a busy online environment, that is especially hectic during the holiday season.

Inboxes fill up quicker than usual with Christmas lists and last minute RSVPs to Christmas dinner. Not to mention the massive amount of order confirmations, online receipts and special holiday promos that come through from retailers. Because of this, our guard is down and we may not be as vigilant at identifying suspicious looking emails. For cybercriminals, this presents an amazing opportunity to deploy phishing scams and play the cyber-Grinch.

Breaking Down the Basics: How do Phishing Scams Work?

Phishing is a form of social engineering that attempts to steal sensitive information. An attacker’s goal is to compromise user systems to obtain usernames, passwords, and/or other account and financial data. Phishing attacks are most commonly deployed through malicious email communications.

The attacker sends legitimate-looking emails to people within an organization. The email usually pretends to be from someone trustworthy, like someone from within the institution, a bank, a shipping company, a credit card company, an airline, or some other site for which a user may have login credentials. The email includes a link to an “official” website that is actually a fake site operated by the attacker.

Once the user visits the fake site, they may be asked overtly to enter account information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, social security or bank account numbers. The victim may also be exposed to malware by visiting the fake site. Taking advantage of a variety of vulnerabilities in the browser, the attacker may be able to install a Trojan Horse on the user’s computer.

If done correctly, the attack can capture sensitive information without the victim even knowing that they have been compromised. In some cases, malware can also be embedded in an email attachment, so when users open a bogus attachment, their system encounters the malware.

Holiday High Alert: The Leading Phishing Scams Cybercriminals Use During the Holidays

Unfortunately, phishing scams are far from the only cyber threat out there causing trouble for businesses and consumers alike during the holiday season. However, phishing does tend to be the most prevalent. To stay on high-alert, let’s outline the top six phishing scams that consumers and businesses are facing this holiday season:

  • Fake Receipts and Invoices

This is one of the most popular kinds of phishing scams because it has the ability to sneak malware past IT security measures. By hiding the malicious code in an email attachment, labeled as a receipt or invoice, the standard phishing traps don’t catch the scam. This is especially useful during the holidays when so much holiday shopping takes place online. Usually, a random invoice from Amazon or The Gap would register as suspicious, but with the holidays around the corner, many would open the attachment without thinking twice.

  • Fake Shipping Status Alerts

This scam deploys a very similar strategy as the fake receipt scam. Much like bogus receipts and invoices, phishing scam artists create phony shipping notifications or updates to send to busy holiday shoppers. However, this strategy is often more effective, because it doesn’t create a fake purchase, but instead provokes consumer worry by stating deliveries are delayed or canceled. This can understandably make consumers worry that holiday gifts they paid for will be late or won’t come at all. Therefore, phishing scammers take advantage of the fact that a phony UPS delay notice will more than likely get a click during the holiday season.

  • Fake Flyers and Deals

This scam targets the frugal saver in all of us. With the rush of the holiday season, email users likely see dozens of holiday promo deals arriving in their inbox every week. Links to printable coupons, discount codes and special offers cram the digital information highway. However, during the holiday season, it’s critical to skim through these messages with a keener eye than usual. While there may be some great deals to be scored, phishing scammers also send out emails with malicious links to phony deals and discounts during the holiday hustle and bustle. When users click these malicious links, they’ll soon find out they’re getting no deal and may have lost money or infected their device in the process.

  • Malicious Embedded Links 

Embedded links are one of the most classic phishing scam styles there is. When clicked, malicious links embedded into email messages can download malware to a system or redirect victims to an infected website. We have a rule of thumb for combatting this. Whenever looking at an email with an embedded link, take the time to run your mouse over the hyperlink – no matter how legitimate it may look. While the hyperlink itself may look legitimate, the destination could be malware central. Users may think following the link will take them someplace familiar, but in reality, they’re being directed to malicious, hacker-controlled territory.

  • Unauthorized Transactions

It’s no secret that keeping tabs on your bank account is a good idea – especially in an increasingly digital marketplace. However, this is especially critical during the holiday season. Trying to keep track of countless holiday shopping purchases can be an uphill battle, but keeping a close eye on changes to your account balance could help you identify fraudulent purchases that aren’t yours. Having payment card data stolen from the internet is easier than ever – all it takes is one website with weak security protocols. Once your payment card details are in the hands of hackers, you’ll be footing the bill for someone else’s shopping list.

  • Fake Customer Surveys

Finally, fake customer incentive surveys are becoming an increasingly popular method for phishing hackers. Many company’s use online surveys offering cash or gift cards as a reward for completing them. However, scam artists have started using phony ones to phish for personal information from unsuspecting victims. Users can respond by staying vigilant and paying attention to the nature of the survey. The difference between a legitimate offer and a phishing attempt is all in the survey questions. If a survey asks for personal or financial information, it’s extremely likely that the survey is a cybercriminal’s way of stealing your data.

Lessons for Business Owners: Strategies for Holiday Cyber Protection

While most of these phishing scams are targeted at individual consumers, it’s not unlikely for these scams to show up in employee inboxes. If an employee happens to fall victim to one of these attacks on the company network, an infection can be triggered which can be disastrous for businesses. Once the infection is triggered, hackers can navigate the business network to steal personal and sensitive company data.

So, how are is your business supposed to combat this threat? The key is to have open and transparent conversations with your employees. Make sure they’re aware of the risks and work together to develop concrete strategies for protection. If and when employees identify suspicious emails, make sure they know the process – should they report it? Who should they report it too? Should it be deleted immediately or should they have an IT employee review it first? Making sure your team knows what to look for and how to respond is half the battle.

Furthermore, talk to your IT department or provider to ensure that you have reliable and strategic network security measures in place and that your firewall, antivirus, and antimalware programs are all up-to-date with the latest patches. Making sure your security strategy is operating correctly will help you avoid the holiday humbug scam-artists.

Wondering if your IT security strategy is up to snuff? Thinking about training your employees with concrete strategies for vigilance? Reach out to a local IT firm for guidance and consultation. The holiday season is busy and cybercriminals never take vacation – sometimes checking in with professionals makes all the difference.

The Ins and Outs of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is something many of us are not entirely familiar with. It seems like something we do not need to worry about unless we work in the tech industry, because who ever heard of an individual being targeted on the web? As seemingly unlikely as it may seem there are cyber-attacks issued on individuals every day. This means that not only do large industries such as the banking and healthcare industry need to worry about cyber-attacks, but everyone including the average Joe should be aware of this potential threat. The sad truth is that if you are using the internet you have the potential to be targeted by hackers.


Why Cybersecurity Matters

Cybersecurity is essential in ensuring that private or sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands. This is becoming increasingly difficult as the number of harmful material- such as malware- that is being launched daily has risen to nearly 230,000 samples. It can be difficult for people to determine what is safe and what is not safe on the internet these days with the rising number of hacking attempts. Already cybersecurity crimes are costing $100 billion dollars a year globally. This number is only expected to increase, and an estimated $1 trillion will be spent on cybersecurity between 2017 and 2021.

When hackers and cyber terrorists are making these attempts, there are usually sinister motives behind them. This is usually an attempt to steal information so that they may be able to commit fraud, harassment, or identity theft. If they are successful in their attempts hackers can do more than ruin your day, it could have lasting effects on you and your company.

Who is Affected by Cyber Crimes

Most of us know that large industries such as government, retail, and tech are at elevated risk for cyber-attacks if they do not take the proper precautions. In fact, 95% of breached records came from these three industries in 2016. This makes sense, as these are industries that hold a lot of information and are profitable, making the information they have desirable to hackers. Furthermore, malware has infected 75% of the healthcare industry over the last year. And since 2013 over 300,000 records have been stolen each day. This makes for an average of 44 records being stolen every second. This is confidential information that both companies and individuals work to keep secure. If these records are stolen it not only has an impact on the company but also on the individual. Because of this, it is important to remember that individuals must be aware of their own cybersecurity as well as that of businesses and companies. Small businesses face the threat of cyberattacks as well. 43% of cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses, and 64% have experienced some form of web-based attack.

It is important for anyone who uses the internet to be aware of their online presence. There is an attempted cyber-attack every 39 seconds and one in three of these attempts will affect Americans. These attempts are not only aimed at large corporations like banks and government industries, but they can also impact individual internet users. Largely the place cyber-attacks are more likely to occur is on individuals using mobile devices. There was a 31.7% increase in mobile device attacks between 2011 and 2012 and with the increasing number of mobile devices the likeliness of an attack only rises. Currently, it is estimated that there are 25 connected devices- including mobile devices such as phones, tablets and the like- per 100 people in the United States. This number is expected to rise to between 50 to 200 billion devices by 2020. It is important for individuals to protect themselves and their devices from attempted cybercrimes.

How the Cybersecurity Industry is Growing and Why

The Cybersecurity industry is expected to have grown from a $106.3 billion-dollar industry to a $170.2 billion-dollar industry by 2020 in a matter of 5 years. The cause of this growth stems largely from the increased number of attacks being issued each day, and companies and individuals desire to keep their information secure. Currently, there are 209,000 cybersecurity jobs that are open, and more cybersecurity job opportunities are posted every day. By 2019 it is expected that there will be 1.5 million unfilled positions in the cybersecurity industry.

There is an increased demand for cybersecurity that is effective, as in the past it seems as if there has just been numerous attempts at securing companies and individuals online only to have the same headlines about cyber-attacks and their success appear on the news. The cybersecurity industry is growing, and specialists are joining the efforts to prevent cybercrimes every day. With only 38% of individuals claiming that they and their business are prepared in the case of an attempted cyber-attack, it is more important than ever to be aware of cybersecurity measures that can be taken to prevent the loss of valuable information.

Top 12 Tech Gifts 2017: Sony Alpha 6000

Digital photography is becoming easier to do with your smartphone, some phone cameras even rivaling some of the lower end cameras. But for those purists out there, it’s tough to beat the value you get with the Sony Alpha 6000. The camera is a mirrorless design with interchangeable lenses and takes photos at 24 megapixels, that’s double what the iPhone X offers.

Sony Digital Camera

The body design is the perfect size for the average human, not too small nor too large. It fits just right in your hand. It offers fast, continuous shooting (up to 11 frames per second) all while maintaining autofocus and auto exposure, and is sports a quicker autofocus than the leading DSLR camera. The A6000 also shoots video in 1080p and comes equipped with HDMI output.

A great camera for the price, you can snag one with a 16-50mm lens for around $550. More lenses are available but will quickly run up the price.

Top 12 Tech Gifts 2017: Google Home Mini

We like tech, it’s what we do. As the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, we are bringing you 12 of the most requested, most wanted tech gifts for 2017. Check back each business day between now and December 19th for another must-have tech item and why you should check it out.

Google Home Mini

Google has been hitting the market over the past year with their own devices to rival their competition in the tech market. One of these innovations is the Google Home Mini. The Mini is considerably smaller than their standard Google Home device ($129) and sports a smaller price tag accordingly. The Mini is built with families in mind and works in conjunction with Chromecast to control your TV, stream movies, and send music to your speakers. You can also have the Google Mini play from the device itself.

It recognizes your voice, so multiple users can access their own playlists, calendars, and more with just their voice. It also features hands-free calling for those times when too busy to hold a phone to your ear. The mini can control your lights, thermostat, and more with a voice command, but those require external devices and/or apps.

Overall, for only $49 it does a solid job of bringing your entertainment into the next generation without depleting your rainy-day fund.

Happy Holidays and good luck on the tech hunt from all of us here at GAM Tech!

GAM Tech Is Business Of The Month!

ATB Financial Creekside, Calgary has committed themselves to helping business owners take their business to the next level. Over the years, they have done quite a lot for these businesses and they have selected GAM Tech as the local business of the month for December.

We are very proud to be selected and have the support of ATB in growing our business while providing top notch support to other businesses in and around Calgary.

Drop by the branch to get a bit of info about what we do and how we can help your business excel.

As an added bonus, you can fill out a quick questionnaire for a chance to win an Apple TV!

Business of The Month - Blog

GAM Tech delivers a powerful combination of benefits that deliver a distinct competitive advantage.

GAM Tech is the best among Calgary tech companies that provide managed IT services Calgary. Among the IT companies in Calgary, Gamtech is your best choice for IT consulting Calgary, IT support Calgary, IT services Calgary. There are many Calgary IT companies that offer Calgary IT consulting, Calgary IT services and Calgary IT support, just remember that GAM Tech has the least 5 minutes response time.