However, as the threat of dodgy e-cards has waned due to e-cards not recently being used by those nefariously nasty online criminals, the rapid approach of the Christmas and festive season could see some drop their guard and open an e-card that appears to come from a friend or colleague.
That’s the finding of global Internet security firm AVG Technologies, who “found that almost three quarters (74 per cent) of the people it polled said they would automatically open an e-card if it were from a friend or colleague.”
As AVG ominously warns, you must “pick the e-cards you read very carefully” – and while AVG mentions that e-cards may be being sent as a way to save money and be eco-friendly, who knows if those clever online criminals will actually have the brains to frame their e-card messages with an eco-friendly message.
Perhaps something like: “I’ve decided to send you an e-card to cut down on the massive carbon emissions of posting a physical card, so please accept this beautiful e-card in place of a dead tree and wasted oil”. Or some such.
Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager of AVG (AU/NZ) said: “Criminals are using this growing medium to deliver viruses and other security threats to the computers of their unsuspecting victims. Because risky e-cards are typically made to look as though they have been sent from a trusted party, usually a friend or relative, they fool the recipient into opening them.”
It is social engineering, after all. Like the TV show said, “you are the weakest link”, and that’s what social engineering targets. You.
AVG says that another three letter organisation, the FBI, has issued formal warnings over the risk of e-cards, because the FBI itself was targeted after fraudulent emails were sent in the name of the FBI’s Deputy Director.
Why do online criminals send out spams and e-cards and other email threats? And what can you do to protect yourself? The answer is on page 2... please read on.
Why are spams and dodgy e-cards, etc, sent out? The answer is simple – because they work to catch people unawares.
AVG continues, saying: “This many damaged PCs adds up to a great deal in terms of lost family photos and videos, lost work, and emails. Plus compromised PCs often become distributors of spam or their owners may become the targets of identity theft.”
AVG however says that “The good news is that these internet security threats can be avoided. Experts at AVG Technologies have compiled five tips so that internet users can send and receive e-cards with peace of mind.”
These five tips are as follows:
1. Don't open attachments: Most legitimate e-cards are links to the company's website that allow you to go directly to your card. Avoid attachments and don't download anything from a source you don't recognise.
2. When in doubt, delete: If something looks a little strange or “phishy”, such as the name of the sender or vague subject lines, just delete the card. It's better to do that than run the risk of getting a virus.
3. Know where you’re going online: Use security software that detects and blocks web sites that push online scams, adware installations, attachments filled with viruses and other malicious downloads that could harm your system.
4. Know what to look for: While most e-card scams actually look legitimate, there are usually some tell-tale signs to look for. Watch out for misspelled words or names, not knowing who sent you the card, a disguised name (such as Your Friend, A Secret Admirer, etc.), and an odd web site address.
5. Always read fine print before accepting any terms: Make sure you actually read the fine print before agreeing to anything. Some e-card scams list in their terms that they can send email to everyone in your address book. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to.
AVG takes the opportunity to note that the required “security software” needn’t “cost a cent”, pointing out that its AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 comes with AVG’s LinkScanner software to tell you whether a site is dodgy or not, with AVG Free able to be downloaded here.
AVG are obviously also hoping that if you get its free anti-virus, anti-malware, Linkscanner software that you’ll end up buying its full protective suite and use it in place of whatever Internet Security suite you’re likely already using.
Whether you do that is of course up to you, but AVG’s tips are certainly helpful whether you choose to use its technologies or not.
So... have a happy and safe festive season – and watch out for those e-cards, because they might come with an unwelcome present that you weren’t expecting!