November 24 could be 'Black Monday' for computer viruses

by Michael Smith

The Internet security company PC Tools has warned that next Monday could be the worst day of the year for computer attacks.

The spread of viruses and malicious software is expected to peak on Novem 24, along with attempts by hackers to seize control of computers, according to PC Tools.

PC Tools, by the way, is the “maker” of ThreatFire, amongst other items of software, and ThreatFire, which I have reviewed in the pages of this journal and used for a considerable time by now, I am certain, has done the bulk of work in preventing my system, while other have been infected, from staying free of problems.

The company has analysed information on more than 500,000 computers worldwide, and looked at data from the same period last year, which appears to suggest the Monday before Thanksgiving in the US is a prime time for security attacks.

PC Tools believes that this could probably be because of the increased online activity at this time of the year, as people starting shopping online for Holiday gifts, and for details of bargains they might be able to pick up on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when many US stores hold huge sales.

Online shoppers are a tempting target for hackers and fraudsters, many of whom will try and trick consumers into clicking links in emails and websites that will download software onto their computers that allows malicious attackers to take remote control of the system and/or to gain control of their passwords and other sensitive information.

With such software on board hackers will then be able to log keystrokes in order to access banking login details and passwords for online shopping sites, and more dangerously even, credit card numbers, PayPal account details and such like.

Web users must be especially vigilant in the run-up to the Holidays and they really must keep their wits about them. While in the real world they would shield their PIN for their Credit or Debit cards they must do similar things as regards to protecting their online identity and credentials.

People who plan to do their gift shopping on the Internet should ensure their anti-virus software and firewall security is up to date, that they don't open emails and files from unfamiliar people, and that they ensure they only enter credit or debit card information on secure web pages.

Secure web pages are denoted by the appearance of a padlock symbol somewhere around the border of the webpage or in the address bar, and the "http://" prefix for the website changing to "https://" to show it is a secure link.

As to opening emails let me add that even emails that are sent from friends may not actually be from them. Their details could have been cloned in the same way as your own details can be cloned – even my own. So let the user beware and if in doubt contact the sender of an email, if he is a known associate, as to whether he or she has, in fact sent you and email with this or that title. If so then it is, more than likely, safe to open.

I have received emails even from my own email addresses – supposedly – that never were from my own addresses. However, the address had been cloned and could have, maybe, confused people.

So, as I always say; let's be careful out there.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008