As more and more expressions of love are being bought online, buyers’ heightened states of emotion may bring increased risks to their browsing computer or mobile device, and their online identity.
Tony Anscombe, AVG’s Senior Security Evangelist, explains: “The kinds of emotions involved in Valentine’s Day preparations, whether love or total panic in some cases, can often cause people to act without their usual level of care. The danger is that we become so focused on the act of giving or receiving affection that we become less alert to the tricks of cybercriminals looking to prey on our vulnerabilities and our inattention."
“Young or old, we all still love the idea of having an admirer. The consequence of this is that we are much more likely to accept an unsolicited Facebook friend request or email offer, if sent at the right time of year,” Anscombe continues.
Valentine’s Day is one the largest days of the year for online retailers and for online cybercriminals who try to take advantage of the increased activity to cause as much damage as possible through their various tricks of the trade. Viral posts through social media are the new spam email, as are Twitter worms such as “Are these pictures of you?” Invitations to download apps ‘designed’ for Valentine’s Day can be a trap, particularly if you accept them from free marketplaces. Spam and e-greeting cards also continue to be popular in the lead up to Valentine’s Day simply because they are effective at tricking people into clicking on and opening malicious links.
Cybercriminals may also try to target unsuspecting users thanks to impulse message sending via unfamiliar sites and last minute gift purchasing. Enticements such as “Order online today for fast delivery using this special discount code” could solve your problem, as long as the fast delivery they’re promising is for flowers and not for malware.
With so many teens and adults now browsing and shopping using small screened smartphones and tablets there are risks to online activity because you can’t always see the full web address. Criminals often add to the end of legitimate URL addresses taking shoppers to corrupt sites.
A new danger awaits users of mobile devices: beware QR codes displaying Valentine’s Day advertisements. The danger lies not in the codes themselves but in what can lie at the other end. When you use your smartphone to scan a QR Code, you are taken directly to the site without its URL being displayed or you being asked first if you want to go there.
Here are AVG’s five safety tips for sending and receiving genuine online affection:
1. Pre-qualify those potentially dodgy email links, e-cards or QR codes by activating link scanning technologies.
2. Whether using a home computer or mobile device, before entering credit card information to order your flowers, ensure you either recognize the URL or that it begins with HTTPS to confirm that the site is secure.
3. When you’ve finished buying your sweetheart a sweet treat, consider cleaning the cookies on your computer so you don’t leave a footprint for the crooks.
4. While there are daily reports of ‘harmless’ social media pranks, Valentine’s Day provides additional avenues for bullies. Always log out and make sure you’re using a good strong password or passphrase so someone else can’t access your account pages.
5. Don’t break someone’s heart or bank account by unintentionally sharing a malicious link with friends – they can so easily go viral on Facebook and Twitter.