Who is about to have the most wonderful time of the year. You or the cyber criminals?
You can’t fail to have noticed that we are entering the holiday season. The one where gifts are bought and exchanged, where food is consumed to almost glutinous levels and money is spent like it is going out of fashion.
The online shelves are stocked; the couriers are waiting and we are just a few short days from two of the biggest online shopping days of the year. By this time next week “Black Friday” and its post weekend sibling “Cyber Monday” will be behind us. These strange two new events have developed a more global reach since the advent of online shopping.
Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving in the USA, is usually regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season. So, in order to get it started with a bang, deep discounts are offered. Cyber Monday comes after the Thanksgiving weekend and is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get people to purchase online. Of course, this all coincides with the last payday before Christmas, so it’s almost a perfect Venn diagram of consumerism.
…and the cyber criminals know this too!
According to ThreatMetrix®, The Digital Identity Company®, over 20 million cyber-attacks are expected to target online retailers and shoppers in the UK alone, across the last quarter of this year. That means that if distributed evenly across the adult population of the UK then one in three people are going to become a victim of cybercrime in the next six weeks.
Globally it is predicted that over 50 million online attacks will occur just over the forthcoming Black Friday / Cyber Monday week. So is this going to be the most wonderful time of the year? I’m guessing that it will be for the cyber criminals.
There is no doubt about it that online shopping has revolutionised our consumer society and I for one am a huge fan of it. It has enabled us all to have an almost unlimitless choice of goods, services and personalised gifts no more than a few clicks away. Traditional Holiday Season shopping is now more of a leisure activity to take in the atmosphere of the family friendly German, Victorian or similarly themed street markets that have gained in popularity in recent times.
By any measure cybercrime continues to grow. All the statistics show nothing more than an upward curve. This is understandable as more people get connected and use use online or mobile payments for their purchases then crime and fraud is almost inevitable. But at this time of year, when online retailers can be experiencing over ten times their usual sales volumes, cybercrime goes into overdrive.
Particular favourites for the criminals and fraudsters, according to the research from ThreatMatrix, are high value items, such as mobile technology, game consoles and consumer electronics and they predict that fraudulent attempts on ecommerce sites to be 60 percent higher than the same period in 2015. You have been warned.
So shall I now run through a list of all the things you need to do to stay safe? Shall we talk about setting up complex passwords? How about updating all your software with the latest security patches? We could pull out that classic of keeping your anti-virus / anti malware solution up to date? Or my particular favourite the implementation of two factor authentication. Nope, I’m not going to do that. Why? Because basic cyber hygiene and basic cyber protection is universally known.
There is a plethora of awareness campaigns out there; Cyber Essentials, Cyber Streetwise, Stay Safe Online, the banks are doing it, the schools are doing it, even newspapers and magazines are all saying it. So, it’s now down to you, the consumer.
Take this advice and act on it, protect yourself and enjoy all the benefits of the modern day interconnected world of commerce. Or ignore it, tell yourself that this is the sort of crime that happens to other people. Kid yourself that your online shopping habits would be of no interest to anybody. It really is your choice.
We are just on the cusp of the most wonderful time of the year and I hope it will be for you, your friends and your family – but not for the cyber criminals.