Thursday, 14 February 2019 00:00

Kaspersky warns of romantic phishing on Valentine's Day

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With the romantically phished well-known for losing money and ending up heartbroken, what is the latest 2019 security advice to ensure you're not next on the hook?

Kaspersky Lab. The security company's experts report having detected "a sharp increase in phishing activities from criminals offering users various romantic goods on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day".

We're told that "the total number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites with a romantic theme that were detected and blocked during the first half of February more than doubled compared to the same time in 2018, a reminder that fraudsters are always looking for an excuse to steal users’ data and money".

So, what is phishing again?

Kaspersky Lab reminds us that "phishing is one of the most popular and easiest social engineering techniques to exploit online users".

"It is a type of fraud where criminals use deception to acquire users’ credentials – from passwords to credit card numbers, bank account details and other financially important information. Phishing emails and websites usually come disguised as legitimate ones that encourage a recipient, for one reason or another, to urgently enter their personal data.

"They are often fuelled by the news agenda, be it major sport event or thematic holidays.

"St. Valentine’s Day is no exception."

How many phishing attempts has Kaspersky Lab already seen this year?

"The overall number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites that were detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab solutions in the first half of February 2019 — the days leading up to February 14th — dramatically peaked from over two million in 2018 to more than 4.3 million this year.

"According to statistics, the most affected countries were Brazil (a more than 6.4% share of detections), Portugal (more than 5.8%), and Venezuela (5.5%). They were followed by Greece (5.3%) and Spain (5.1%).

"Deeper analysis into the sent emails has shown that fraudsters are particularly exploiting pre-order gift items and performance enhancing drugs as a trap to lure users into sharing their credentials in order to please their loved ones. This again proves the findings of Kaspersky Lab’s own survey, indicating that when it comes to love, users tend to lose their vigilance."

Noushin Shabab, one of Kaspersky Lab's senior security researchers, said: "It is only natural to want to spoil and celebrate St Valentines Day with your loved one. However many people get carried away with their emotions, excitement and love which believe it or not, could result in falling for a phishing attack based on our research.

"We should always be cautious when surfing the Web, even if it’s as simple as buying flowers and chocolates."

So, what is Kaspersky Lab's advice for staying safe?

  • Phishers often exploit emotions – including those connected with relationships and love. Signs that there could be phishers aiming to exploit your romantic expectations include messages that demand immediate action, ask for vast amounts of very personal and seemingly irrelevant information, or which simply sound too good to be true.
  • Pay extra attention to emails promising ‘one time only’ offers or various goods for free. If emails come from people or organisations you don’t know, or have suspicious or unusual addresses think twice before opening. Do not click on links until you are sure that they are legitimate and start with ‘https’, especially when any personal or financial information is asked for.
  • Have a separate bank card and account with a limited amount of money, specifically for buying flowers or making a table reservation. This will help to avoid serious financial losses if your bank details are stolen.
  • Use a reliable security solution with anti-phishing and secure payment capabilities. Naturally, Kaspersky recommends its "Kaspersky Security Cloud" as one of the reliable security solutions on offer.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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