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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Its Festive Season! Stay Cyber Safe!

Venkatasubrahmanyam Krishnapur
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Venkatasubrahmanyam Krishnapur
Indian festivals generate eagerness and enthusiasm not only amongst all of us, but also the bad boys in cyberspace! As we herald the festive season with Diwali, Id and Christmas that are fast-approaching, the scammers are out in full force scheming to lure innocent victims in cyberspace. The best way for consumers to protect themselves is to stay educated about the criminal’s tricks, so they can avoid them. Check out the following tips to ensure a safe and happy festive season! * Malicious Mobile Applications The growing popularity of mobile devices has proved irresistible to cybercriminals, and now they are targeting mobile users through malicious applications. These are mobile apps designed to do harm, such as steal information from smart phones, or send out expensive text messages without a user’s consent. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free, and masquerade as fun applications, such as games. Quick Tip: To help protect yourself, only download apps from official app stores, such as iTunes and the Android Market, and read other users’ reviews before downloading them. Use products like the McAfee Mobile Suite on your smart phones to protect yourself from malware, data loss and device theft. * Malicious Content and Websites When doing online searches for gifts and other holiday cheer this season, be aware that there are dangerous websites with malicious content. Cybercriminals are busy putting up malicious holiday-themed content, such as Diwali ringtones and e-cards, as well as dangerous websites designed to spread malware or steal information. Further, most consumers have the misconception that popular websites are infallible from cyber attacks and that it is totally safe to shop at such sites. With the increasing sophistication of cyber criminals, they can also fake the ‘s’ after 'http' in a website address, which is usually considered as one of the ways to secure sites. Quick Tip: To protect yourself, consider using a safe search tool such as McAfee SiteAdvisor software, which tells you if a site is safe to click on right in your search results. Ensure that you shop from a "certified secure" mark on the websites that you shop from. This mark is a reliable indicator of a website’s security. * Phony Facebook Promotions and Contests Who doesn’t want to win some free prizes or get a great deal around the festive season? Unfortunately, cyber scammers know that these are attractive lures and they have sprinkled Facebook with phony promotions and contests aimed at gathering personal information. Quick Tip: Watch out for too-good-to-be-true offers on social networks (like free airline tickets), and never agree to reveal your personal information just to participate in a promotion. Especially be very careful when clicking on short links that don’t give anyone a clue as to what the destination site might be. Again tools like SiteAdvisor from McAfee will come in extremely handy as they warn you when you enter such sites. * Festive Phishing Scams Cyber scammers know that most people are busy around the holidays shopping for online gifts and doing other seasonal activities. With this in mind, they tailor their emails and social messages with festive themes in the hopes of tricking gullible recipients into revealing personal information. Alternatively, spammers attach malware to such greeting emails, attracting recipients to click on them, which in reality could result in unleashing of a malware on their system.

Quick tip: Watch out for "too good to be true" offers. While it could be the best kept secret on the web, such offers could also be part of a counterfeit operation designed to get your credit card details. When receiving such online offers or discounts, use the same caution you would as if an unknown person came up to you on the street trying to sell you designer goods at an irresistible price. Never click in an email from unfamiliar mail addresses. Secondly, never share personal information such as credit /debit card numbers, bank details etc on an email. From a solutions perspective, it is no longer sufficient to have anti-virus solution alone. Consider add on features in a security solution such as anti-phishing toolbars, pass word encryption and so on.

* “I’m away from home” Scammers A lot of us go away over Diwali and Christmas holidays to visit relatives or just take advantage of the holidays. But did you know that posting information about your vacation on social networking sites could actually be dangerous? If someone is connected with people they don’t know on Facebook or other social networking sites, they could see their post and decide that it may be a good time to rob them. Furthermore, a quick online search could easily turn up their home address.

Quick Tip: Don’t accept requests from people you don’t know in real life, and wait to post pictures and comments about your vacation until you’ve already returned home. Some social networking sites allow you to publish your current location. Please check your default Social Networking settings to ensure you have the most appropriate settings that will give you an adequate level of security and privacy. Uncheck ones that are likely to reveal information that should not go out to the general public.

The author is Senior Director, McAfee India
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