They See You When You’re Shopping: Holiday Cybercrime Starts Early

Researchers notice year-end phishing attacks starting in July and ramping up in September.

It seems the holiday season starts earlier every year. This trend extends to the world of cybercrime, where this year attackers started to ramp up malicious year-end activity as early as July. By September, phishing URL detections were up over 2.5 times compared with 2018.

The period between September and December is “the most active malware season of the year,” reports the Avira Protection Lab. Researchers charted a 61% increase in phishing during the 2018 holiday shopping season. This year, the seasonal activity started earlier, and it’s moving faster and growing more diverse as attackers map new campaigns for both mobile and desktop devices.

Android, the most common mobile OS, is the most frequently targeted, researchers report. The amount of Android malware typically intercepted, which mostly includes banking Trojans, climbs 50% during the holiday shopping season. The Android/Banker, specifically, climbs 17.5%.

Criminals can distribute a wide variety of malware with a simple WhatsApp message: “Click here to receive the latest Black Friday coupons” may arrive with a link to a new coupon app, researcher say as an example. Banking Trojans, premium SMS fraud, and adware are most commonly delivered in scams like this. Trojans such as the new ExoBot variant have dynamic overlays to collect payment card data and other banking data, such as PIN codes, they say.

Some free coupon apps — for example, Black Friday Ads 2019 — toe the line between adware and traditional ad-supported apps. Researchers advise shoppers to stick with official apps and app stores and, even then, read the reviews and review permissions before downloading.

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